A major study by researchers at Imperial College London has identified four new symptoms linked with a Covid-19 infection—researchers say this adds to “classic” symptoms of loss of smell and taste, fever and a persistent cough and could help identify more cases of the disease.
In a study of more than 1 million people in England between June 2020 and January 2021, researchers identified chills, loss of appetite, headaches and muscle aches as additional symptoms linked with having Covid-19.
Some symptoms vary by age, with headaches most reported in children and teens (between 5-17 years old), who are less likely to report “classic” Covid-19 symptoms, and adults over 55 reporting appetite loss.
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT research program running the study, said the findings suggest many people with Covid-19 won’t be getting tested or self-isolating “because their symptoms don’t match those used in current public health guidance to help identify infected people.”
U.K. guidelines currently focus on the “classic” coronavirus symptoms, and the researchers predict that an extra 25% of symptomatic cases could be caught if testing criteria are expanded to include these new symptoms.
The researchers also identified differences in people contracting the new U.K. variant of Covid-19—which officials predict will become the dominant U.S. virus by March—who were more likely to develop a persistent cough but less likely to report a loss of smell or taste.
The nature of the study, which does not say whether or not other illnesses were tested for in addition to Covid-19, leaves some ambiguity as to the cause of these new symptoms said Dr Tom Wingfield, Senior Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Physician at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in England. Chills, muscle aches, appetite loss and headaches are all “symptoms that are commonly found in people with other infections including flu, rhinovirus, and other causes of ‘common colds’,” Wingfield said, adding “we don’t know from the REACT report whether the people tested for Covid-19 had more than one infection at the time of testing. This is pertinent given the frequency of flu, rhinovirus, and other viruses during winter months.”
COVID-19 linked with wider set of symptoms than previously thought – REACT study (Imperial College London)
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