BRITS have been told to get a Covid test if they feel even slightly ill, amid fears new variants cause different symptoms.
Professor Tim Spector OBE, who leads the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app, has long been warning the classic symptoms of the coronavirus are not experienced by everyone.
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Brits have been told to get a Covid test if they feel even slightly ill, amid fears new variants cause different symptomsCredit: Getty Images – Getty
He is urging people to get a Covid test even if they feel under the weather, regardless of whether they have the classic triad of symptoms: a persistent cough, high temperature or loss of smell or taste.
Millions of people report symptoms and test results to the ZOE app, allowing researchers to gather information on the most common symptoms.
Prof Spector, a genetic epidemiologist at King’s College London, said: “This week, we published research that showed that the classic three Covid symptoms of cough, fever and anosmia misses a significant proportion of positive cases.
“We are pushing for the list to be expanded to help us pick up more cases and drive down the number of cases.
“It’s also important for any new variants that may cause different symptoms.
“For us, the message for the public is clear: if you’re feeling newly unwell, it could be Covid and you should get a test.”
The warning comes after an array of new strains of the coronavirus have emerged in the UK in the past few weeks.
Prof Spector and his team have not found new variants cause different symptoms in their own line of research.
But the Office for National Statistics has shown a slight change in the most common symptoms experienced by those who are sick with the Kent variant.
They are more likely to complain of cough and fatigue, but less likely to suffer a loss of taste and smell compared with the “original” strain of the virus.
Evidence for symptoms of the South African variant – which has caused 235 confirmed and probable cases in the UK – has not been gathered.
And it has not been revealed if the new variation of the Kent strain, found in Bristol, or the mutated original strain, found in Liverpool, cause slightly different symptoms.
They have caused 26 and 71 cases so far, respectively.
The most common symptoms of the Kent variant compared with the original one
The most commonly reported symptoms of the Kent variant
But public health officials previously urged anyone in the North West area to get a Covid test even if they had a runny nose, on the back of the discovery of the Liverpool variant.
Only the Kent variant has been shown to cause more severe disease – by causing a higher number of deaths in those who catch it.
Scientists are still investigating whether these mutated versions of the bug will threaten vaccine efficacy.
Some of them have changes that help them to avoid antibodies produced by the immune system.
The evidence so far suggests jabs will protect against severe disease and death, but possibly not reinfection.
It comes after Prof Spector’s team have called for the official NHS list of Covid symptoms to be expanded to include a sore throat, headache, fatigue and diarrhoea.
The app data shows these symptoms are experienced by more than half of Covid cases, but on their own, do not necessarily mean someone has the disease.
Researchers say testing Brits with the three ‘classic’ symptoms would have spotted 69 per cent of symptomatic cases.
But adding just four more symptoms would help pick up about a third more cases of the bug, the team estimate, meaning 96 per cent of symptomatic cases would be discovered.
App data has also shown that a loss of taste and smell tends not to occur in the first seven days of symptoms.
It means people who turn to the NHS website – which says loss of taste and/or smell is one of the key symptoms to get a test – may think they do not have the coronavirus.
And the most commonly experienced early symptoms are actually headache (82 per cent) and fatigue (72 per cent).