How the symptoms of Covid-19 change with the delta variant

How the symptoms of Covid-19 change with the delta variant

Some new clues seem to indicate that the symptoms of the delta variant of Sars-CoV-2 are slightly different and more difficult to distinguish from those of a normal cold

(photo: Getty Images) The Covid Symptoms List -19 is long and each patient is a story unto himself. Until now, however, we had learned about some alarm bells: the fever, of course; fatigue; parainfluenza symptoms. But above all anosmia and ageusia, or loss (respectively) of smell and taste, two of the most characteristic symptoms of the new disease from the very early stages of the pandemic. With the arrival of the delta variant, however, even these few certainties seem destined to collapse: according to a recent English research, the spread of the new viral strain has drastically changed even the most common symptoms of Covid 19, prompting several experts to ask to update the guidelines of the British Ministry of Health to reflect the new epidemic situation, and to ensure the best chance of identifying in time any possible transmission chain of the virus.

Many symptoms, few certainties

In fact, the definition of symptoms used in Great Britain to date is rather narrow, especially when compared to those provided by other important players in global health, such as the WHO and the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and also those established by our Ministry of Health, based on the indications of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Ecdc). Where many health authorities indicate a list with nearly a dozen symptoms to watch out for, the UK's National Health Service asks British citizens to look out for only three ailments, as a warning of a possible contagion: high fever (over 37 and middle), cough and loss of taste / smell. A very short list, considered by many to be inadequate.

"To reopen the company as quickly and fairly as possible, it is essential to improve our ability to control the transmission of the virus", a group of specialists in British public health: "And to do this we start with a broader definition of Covid symptoms and appropriate to the context in which we operate, to arrive at a more adaptable public health response based on updated information". And in fact, as we said, the most recent information on this aspect indicates a change in the typical symptomatology of Covid-19 patients.

The new symptoms

To photograph the change of course is the Zoe Covid Symptom Study app, an initiative launched last March to map the most common symptoms of Covid-19 and their evolution over the course of the disease, using a free app and data (based on self-assessment) entered directly by users. Since this is a project born in the United Kingdom, the information it offers is mainly related to the English population, and since at the moment the delta variant is largely preponderant in the country, it can be interpreted as a characterization of the symptoms related to the new viral strain.

What does the latest data tell us? That for the unvaccinated and for those who have received only one dose of the vaccine (we are therefore talking about the patients who are most likely to contract the delta variant, for which, we have now learned, only two doses of the vaccine seem to provide reliable protection) The top five most common symptoms are headache, runny nose, sore throat, sneezing and persistent cough. Extremely common symptoms, which could lead many people to underestimate the disease, perhaps mistaking Covid-19 for a banal summer cold. Also because the loss of taste and smell, the signal that in the past was the most reliable indicator of a Sars-Cov-2 infection, no longer even enters the top 10.

The risk: underestimating the disease

"Covid is behaving differently lately, it looks more like a severe cold," Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London and coordinator of the Zoe Covid Symptom Study app project, told the Guardian: “Many people may think they have just caught a seasonal cold, and keep going out of the house, going to parties… We think this phenomenon is fueling the problem. What is important to understand is that since the beginning of May, looking at the most common symptoms reported by users of our app, it is clear that they have changed compared to the past ".

Obviously, at the moment those of Spector are only hypotheses . The app is based on voluntary user reports and self-assessment of symptoms. And it clearly does not involve sequencing the virus to determine which viral variant has affected the individual patient. The delta variant is currently largely prevalent, it is true, but there are other factors that could influence the symptoms of Covid-19 patients, such as vaccinations (in the UK 50% of the adult population is fully vaccinated, and almost 80% have received at least the first dose) and the arrival of summer temperatures (which lead to spending less time indoors).

Despite the increasing numbers of new cases, moreover, the country has not yet seen a skyrocketing 'high deaths and hospitalizations. And if on the one hand it could only be a matter of time, on the other it is also possible that the delta variant is proving to be very infectious, with a lethality due to the effectiveness of transmission, according to the WHO (and the new symptoms, milder, could go in this direction). Or, perhaps even more realistic scenario, that vaccines and temperatures are taming the virus just enough to produce less severe symptoms, and therefore more similar to those of a normal cold. It is too early for certainties, in short, but in this period of calm one of the priorities is to restore the tracing, to cut down the circulation of the virus as much as possible, and therefore, given the data coming from the United Kingdom, even a simple runny nose could be a sufficient spy to choose to undergo a tampon.

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