Covid 4th wave: New BA.2 variant can impact stomach and intestine, say experts

While the fear of a likely fourth wave, triggered by Omicron BA.2, lingers, a section of experts from Kolkata have warned that the symptoms of Covid-19 during the fourth wave may be completely different from the previous ones. According to them, this time people may experience symptoms related to the stomach or intestines.

The biggest disadvantage of Omicron BA.2 sub-lineage is that the virus could be difficult to be detected in RT-PCR tests. Already many countries of Europe and some countries of Asia are witnessing rapid surge in cases due to the BA.2 variant also known as Stealth Omicron.

The biggest concern about this variant is that it is affecting the stomach rather than the lungs, causing symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhoea. Let us know what experts are saying about the Omicron subvariant in India.


BA.2 attacking abdomen instead of lungs

Experts in Kolkata say that BA.2 symptoms are mostly associated with abdomen and stomach instead of cough or shortness of breath. They say its possible that the virus has now changed its pattern and is affecting the stomach. One study has suggested that it may be difficult to identify this variant through RT-PCR tests.


Symptoms of BA.2 may be mild

Talking about other symptoms of BA.2, Professor Dipendra Sarkar of the Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research has told that this variant is likely to be mild. Hence, it should be no more harmful than the common cough and cold.


What are the symptoms?

Stealth Omicron or BA.2 affects the gut rather than the nose, leading to many problems related to the digestive system.


The results of the tests can be inaccurate because the virus cannot be detected in the nose or mouth.


This variant can cause digestive problems like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, heatburn and bloating.


Major symptoms centred around the gut

Raja Dhar, Director of Pulmonology, CMRI Hospital, said the virus is unlikely to go undetected in RT-PCR, although it can travel to the abdomen and aggravate symptoms. The transmission of Covid is through the lungs, so it is certain to be detected.


But transmission can also happen through the stomach. Therefore, it is possible that the major symptoms will now be centred around the gut rather than the respiratory tract.


Intestinal symptoms

According to RN Tagore Hospital Intensivist Sauren Panja, "Scores of patients had gastro-intestinal symptoms, especially when the second wave was waning. So, it is possible for the virus to travel to the gut and once it does, gastro-intestinal symptoms could precede the respiratory tract ones, especially in the initial stages. This is probably happening in Europe now, so we need to watch and analyze the strain."


He said that it is possible that Covid-19 can be detected more in faeces than sputum, which has a success rate of 65%-70%.


Muscle fatigue

In countries where the fourth wave has hit, muscle fatigue has been another common symptom. Experts in Kolkata pointed out that this was common during the third wave as well. During the third wave, weakness in the limbs was the most common complaint, along with cough and fever.


It persists along with gastro-intestinal symptoms. So, we now need to focus on these symptoms instead of just cough and cold.


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