Omicron: Most people don’t know they have it, study finds

A new study has found that more than half of people infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 were unaware they had it.

Undiagnosed infections could be the reason why the variant spread so rapidly, researchers from the LA-based Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, who conducted the study published in the journal JAMA Network Open on Wednesday, said in a release.

The study’s participants initially included 2,479 employees and patients of the medical centre, who provided blood samples before and after the surge of the Omicron wave.

Researchers identified 210 people who tested positive for Omicron. All were asked to complete health questionnaires outlining their signs and symptoms to monitor their health statuses during the study’s period.

It was found that 56 per cent of the participants had no idea they were infected, out of which only ten per cent reported even experiencing recent symptoms. Forty-four per cent of the respondents reported being aware of having Omicron.

“We hope people will read these findings and think, ‘I was just at a gathering where someone tested positive,’ or, ‘I just started to feel a little under the weather. Maybe I should get a quick test,’” Susan Cheng, co-author of the study, said in a release.

“The better we understand our own risks, the better we will be at protecting the health of the public as well as ourselves.”

The results from the study back up the vast underreporting of Omicron cases in Canada, found by a group of volunteer experts that have been analyzing the country’s cases since Dec. 2, 2021.

According to the researchers, additional research with larger samples of people from other ethnic groups and localities will be required to determine the precise characteristics that are connected to a lack of infection awareness.

The data also revealed that with the widespread availability of at-home rapid test kits, people’s awareness of their infection status improved.

“Awareness will be key for allowing us to move beyond this pandemic,” Cheng said.