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Cough, fatigue, sore throat and muscle pain more common with new Covid variant

Emma Wilkinson

27 January 2021

Cough, fatigue, sore throat and muscle pain may be more common in those testing positive for the new variant of coronavirus, a report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests.

Data collected in the Covid-19 Infection Survey between 15 November and 16 January also found that loss of taste and smell were significantly less likely to affect those with the new form of the virus, although the percentage differences were small.

The analysis from random strong positive Covid-19 tests found no evidence of difference in the gastrointestinal symptoms, shortness of breath or headaches.

Survey results of reported symptoms up to a week before testing positive showed that 35.11% of people with a positive test compatible with the new B117 variant reported cough, 32.46% fatigue, 21.88% sore throat and 25.03% muscle myalgia.

This compared with 28.27% reporting cough, 29.09% reporting fatigue, 19.08% having a sore throat and 21.97% muscle myalgia in those testing positive for other strains.

The new strain was first detected in December in the South East of England and has been shown to be more easily transmissible than previous variants.

Earlier this month, the BMA called for more stringent PPE guidance in primary care amidst ‘significant and growing concerns’ about aerosol transmission of Covid-19 in healthcare settings.

The ONS survey data, collected in collaboration with Public Health England, the Wellcome Trust and Manchester and Oxford Universities, also reported that the percentage testing positive has increased amongst those in patient-facing roles in recent weeks.

Analysis of nose and throat swabs reported in the community found that in the week ending 9 January 2021, the percentage of those testing positive for Covid-19 increased in both the under and over 35s who work in a patient-facing role.

By contrast the percentage of positive tests has recently decreased in non-patient facing roles, the ONS reported.

Professor Lawrence Young, virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said mutations in the new variant could influence the symptoms patients have.

He said: ‘This variant is more transmissible and infected individuals appear to have higher virus loads which means they produce more virus.

‘This could result in more widespread infection within the body perhaps accounting for more coughs, muscle pain and tiredness.’

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