For practically two years, hundreds of thousands of members of the general public have been submitting each day well being studies to the ZOE COVID Examine, serving to us to trace the pandemic because it unfolds. Particularly, the 480 million studies submitted through the examine’s app have proven that because the virus has developed, so too have the signs it causes.
Again in 2020, it rapidly turned clear that the unique and alpha variations of the coronavirus precipitated three quite common signs – cough, fever and lack of scent – in addition to at the least 20 others. These included fatigue, complications, shortness of breath, muscle pains and gastrointestinal issues, in addition to extra uncommon phenomena reminiscent of pores and skin rashes and “COVID tongue”.
When delta appeared, we then observed a shift within the most regularly reported signs. Beforehand frequent signs reminiscent of shortness of breath, fever and lack of scent fell down the rankings. Chilly-like signs – together with a runny nostril, sore throat and chronic sneezing – turned extra frequent, together with a headache and cough, notably in individuals who had been vaccinated.
Omicron seems to be persevering with the pattern set by delta. It’s inflicting signs which can be rather more like an everyday chilly, notably in individuals who’ve been vaccinated, and fewer basic systemic signs, reminiscent of nausea, muscle pains, diarrhoea and pores and skin rashes.
We checked out well being studies from individuals who reported having COVID in December, as omicron unfold via the UK, and in contrast them with knowledge from early October, when delta was the dominant variant. We then checked our findings from this comparability by additionally analysing knowledge from a small group of contributors who had been instructed by the federal government that their constructive PCR outcomes had been suspected or confirmed omicron infections.
Our evaluation confirmed no vital distinction within the total symptom profile of delta and omicron, with the highest 5 signs in each time durations being a runny nostril, headache, fatigue, sneezing and a sore throat. However in terms of the general prevalence of the signs, there are some clear variations.
For instance, anosmia (lack of scent or style) was within the prime ten in October however has fallen to seventeenth place. What was as soon as a key indicator of COVID is now solely seen in round one in 5 individuals testing constructive. And in line with our knowledge, lower than a 3rd of individuals (29%) will ever expertise a fever, which can be far much less frequent than we’ve seen previously.
Importantly, we discovered that solely half of individuals with COVID had any of the basic three signs of fever, cough or lack of sense of scent, suggesting that the authorities’s steering for PCR testing (which means that it’s best to get a check you probably have one in every of these three signs) is woefully outdated.
How unhealthy is omicron?
This new variant is rather more infectious than earlier variants, inflicting a surge in instances throughout the UK and in different nations. And though it’s not but clear whether or not we shall be dealing with an amazing wave of hospitalisations from the illness, it’s necessary to do not forget that whereas omicron and delta could really feel like a chilly to many people, it could actually nonetheless kill or trigger long-term signs that disrupt each day life, particularly for individuals who haven’t been vaccinated or are immunocompromised.
Up to now, we’ve seen nearly all of instances in youthful individuals, however we’re additionally now seeing instances rising in older age teams whereas the general an infection price stays so excessive. The latest rise in constructive instances within the over-75s is worrying, however we’re hopeful that the excessive ranges of vaccination within the UK in older and extra susceptible teams will proceed to translate to milder signs and few hospitalisations. The main downside with omicron is extra the wave of illness absence it’s inflicting in key well being employees.
Is it omicron or a chilly?
As we head additional into the depths of winter right here within the UK there are some fairly nasty colds going round, in addition to the perennial flu. The ZOE COVID Examine app knowledge tells us the signs brought on by the present COVID variants are similar to these of an everyday chilly. Which means that it’s not attainable to know for positive what you’ve obtained primarily based on signs alone. When the speed of COVID is excessive, a brand new sore throat, runny nostril or uncommon fatigue must be handled as COVID till you’ve been examined.
As a result of contributors to the ZOE COVID Examine app log any each day signs they’re experiencing, in addition to any COVID check outcomes, we’re additionally capable of monitor the prevalence of non-COVID colds. Simply three months in the past, round one in 12 individuals with new respiratory signs examined constructive for COVID. Nevertheless, with omicron round 50% of “new colds” at present are, in reality, COVID.
So in the event you or a member of the family are feeling unwell, there’s a superb probability that it might be COVID, particularly in the event you’re snuffling and sneezing lots. It is best to keep residence and get examined to make sure. Keep in mind that though lateral stream assessments are good, particularly in the event you swab each your throat and nostril, they’re much less delicate than PCR assessments. Once you do one, attempt to repeat it within the following days, as a single detrimental lateral stream outcome isn’t a assure that you just aren’t contaminated.
Lastly, whatever the authorities tips, whether or not you may have COVID or not, it’s greatest to remain at residence in the event you’re feeling ailing with unusual or cold-like signs, and to keep away from contacts and put on a masks in the event you do exit, to keep away from spreading your germs to others who could also be extra susceptible.