The number of reported Covid cases in the UK may be decreasing, but with the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 still running “rampant”, according to experts, there’s been a change in the most commonly reported symptom of the virus.
According to the latest data from the Office For National Statistics, 150,591 tested positive for Covid in the seven days up to July 15 – a week on week decrease of 14.4%.
However, the latest report from the Zoe Health Study app puts estimates at nearer 300,000 cases and also flags the symptom most reported by its users.
A sore throat is back to being the most reported symptom among those testing positive for Covid, with almost 58% of Zoe app users with Covid suffering one. This is followed by headache, blocked nose and cough.
“Covid is still rampant in the population,” said Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist on the app in his latest explainer video.
“So much so that if you have any cold-like symptoms at the moment it’s nearly twice as likely to be Covid as a cold. Even if people have had a past infection and are fully vaccinated, people are still catching it.”
Prof Spector advised: “Although we all want to make the most of the good weather, people will need to decide for themselves whether going to large events, working from the office or using busy public transport is worth the risk.”
What are the other symptoms of BA.4 and BA.5?
Breathlessness and a loss of taste or smell were more common with previous strains of the virus, such as Alpha.
The most commonly reported symptoms of the new Omicron variants are:
How do you know if you have a severe infection?
There is a key sign which sets mild infections apart from more severe disease.
Dr Dan Goyal, a consultant in internal medicine in NHS Highland, pointed out that it comes down to your breathing.
In a Twitter thread earlier this month, he wrote: “To be absolutely clear, shortness of breath is NOT a ‘normal’ feature of Covid. “Shortness of breath indicates severe Covid (or worse) until proven otherwise.”
He suggested that silent hypoxia is an additional major concern, and “the most challenging part of Covid management”. This is when the oxygen in your blood is very low, but the patient is not aware of any related symptoms. Dr Goyal describes it as where the “lungs are inflamed but you don’t feel short of breath”.
To detect it, he recommended buying a pulse oximeter from your local pharmacist. This measures how much oxygen is in your blood.
What to do if you test Covid positive?
Currently there are no official measures in place to reduce transmission among the general public, it’s not clear how people are supposed to respond if they do test positive.It’s best to self-isolate if you can.
If you have a mild case, it should resolve itself within a matter of days. However, this is not the case for everyone and severe disease can develop for some people. Any breathing problems are a danger sign and need medical attention.
If you are a high-risk group, you might be eligible for anti-viral therapies which reduce hospitalisation and the health risks that come with catching Covid.
However, you have to take them before the end of day five of symptom onset for them to have an effect.