As the virus mutates, the most common symptoms of COVID seem to change as well
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, is devastating precisely because it can enter so many different organs and systems in the body. This is manifested by various symptoms, from elevated temperature to breathing problemsalthough the infection can also be asymptomatic – that is, without symptoms.
Throughout the pandemic, there have been few signs of infection with COVID. A loss sense of smell and taste were chief among them. But so is the virus mutated again and againcreating new strains like Typhon (BQ.1) and Griffon (XBB) which can evade Some of our tools to combat it, it seems that the symptoms of COVID may have changed as well.
Recent assessments published The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday determined that Typhon and its close cousin Cerberus (BQ.1.1) accounted for 27 percent of cases, up 11 percent from last week. Meanwhile, cases of BA.5, the strain that dominated cases most of the summer, fell below 50 percent for the first time in months.
Indeed, new data points to the symptoms of COVID are it changes with new variants. And they can be different regardless of whether you’ve been vaccinated or not, or have been previously infected. Recently published data from the ZOE health study, which it maintains Application for monitoring the symptoms of COVIDreveals that the dominant symptoms have changed.
The app was originally launched in March 2020. It quickly registered a million users, who entered how they felt about COVID, allowing researchers to pinpoint some of the most common symptoms of COVID. This was part of the reason why it became known that anosmia (loss of smell and taste) was a key symptom of the original strain of COVID.
Recently, ZOE crunched the data of over 4.8 million users and found that after two vaccinations the first symptoms were sore throat, runny nose, stuffy nose, persistent cough, headache, in that order. (Vaccines can protect against severe disease, which generally means hospitalization or death, but breakthrough infections are not unheard of, although they are far less serious than infections in the unvaccinated.)
Loss of smell came in at number nine, while shortness of breath ranked 30th for this group. ZOE says this indicates that “symptoms previously reported are changing with evolving variants of the virus”.
Just one dose of the vaccine can change the order of the most common symptoms to headache, runny nose, sore throat, sneezing and persistent cough. For those who have not received the vaccine at all, symptoms are generally closer to the original 2020 ranking: headache, sore throat, runny nose, fever, and persistent cough.
However, loss of smell dropped to number nine, while shortness of breath ranked 30th for this group. ZOE says this indicates that “symptoms previously reported are changing with evolving variants of the virus”.
Just because SARS-2 seems to be evolving doesn’t mean it’s going to get “milder” — and it’s definitely nothing like the flu or the common cold. The virus attacks indiscriminately the inner lining of blood vesselscausing injury the heart and lungs, and can literally cause brain damage. Given the wide spectrum debilitating symptoms known as the long COVID, it makes no sense to call this “treasure”. Additionally, repeated infections can have unknown consequences—experts aren’t entirely sure what happens when you get COVID two, three, or more times.
That’s why it’s so important to watch for new symptoms. COVID can manifest differently because different strains of the virus sometimes affect different parts of the body. The delta strain, for example, found its niche in the lower respiratory tract, whereas omicron BA.2 tends to favor the upper airway.
But it’s also important to note that the data from ZOE is self-reported and doesn’t take into account demographics or which variant caused the infection. It also uses average values to report the most common symptoms — everyone is different and there is no guarantee that the disease will follow a particular course.
Still, the data gives a good idea of what to expect and people should be aware of these changes to best protect themselves. And the tools to fight COVID haven’t really changed: testing, masking, indoor ventilation, drugs like Paxlovid and of course, vaccines these are all powerful strategies that we should use more to prevent this winter wave from becoming extremely deadly. The Biden administration warned this week that 30-70,000 Americans could die from the virus this winter. But even a small wave could disrupt the supply chain and sicken millions.
One thing that could make this winter worse than previous waves of COVID is the rise of “variant of soup,” meaning that multiple new strains of the virus are growing at once. In previous fall and winter waves, only one type of virus (ie, the delta or original “wild-type” strain) really dominated.
Public health experts also warn of “twindemic” or even a “triple demy” in which COVID is rising along with influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Most people may never have heard of RSV, but first discovered in chimpanzees in 1956, and the virus regularly causes epidemics in humans. It is usual just seriously in babies and older people, but it’s still not a fun disease.
Although fall has just begun, both the flu and RSV are back with a vengeance after relatively few cases in the previous two years. On Friday, The Washington Post reported that this flu season is earlier and more severe than it has been in 13 years, “with at least 880,000 flu cases, 6,900 hospitalizations, and 360 flu-related deaths nationally.” Meanwhile, pediatric hospital beds across the US are filling up with RSV patients, many of whom completely full for weeks.
The symptoms of flu and RSV can overlap (cold-like symptoms such as fever, runny nose, cough), making it somewhat confusing for sick people to know which illness they really have. This highlights the importance of getting tested for COVID-19 and seeing a doctor when you are sick, if you have access to medical care. It also serves as a reminder to stay home when you are sick and to cover up when possible.
Masking prevents the spread of all three viruses: influenza, RSV and COVID. That’s one theory why the last two winters have been largely disease-free except for COVID, which has dominated due to its novelty and high infectivity. But as restrictions ease, some of these better-known viruses are making a comeback. Tracking new and old symptoms is really only part of the equation. Masks, vaccines and social distancing are still some of the best tools at our disposal.
about infectious disease
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