New ‘early’ symptoms of coronavirus discovered – and they differ by age and gender

The NHS website has repeatedly come under attack from prominent health experts throughout the pandemic for not providing a more extensive list of coronavirus symptoms. Despite flying in the face of new evidence, the guidance still only states three symptoms of coronavirus to spot: fever, cough and loss of taste or smell. It has based its public messaging on these symptoms. However, new research published today further illustrates that there are a plethora of symptoms not listed on the NHS website and failing to reflect these symptoms means many cases will slip through the net.

The researchers modelled the early signs of COVID-19 infection and successfully detected 80 percent of cases when trained on the first three days of self-reported symptoms.

The clearest symptoms for early detection of COVID-19 overall included loss of smell, chest pain, persistent cough, abdominal pain, blisters on the feet, eye soreness and unusual muscle pain.

The early symptoms differed by age and gender.

For older groups, loss of smell was not any early sign, whereas other early symptoms such as diarrhoea were key.

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Fever, while a known symptom of disease, was not an early feature of the disease in any age group.

Men were more likely to report shortness of breath, fatigue, chills and fever, whereas women were more likely to report loss of smell, chest pain and a persistent cough.

Doctor Claire Steves, lead scientist at ZOE COVID Study and reader at King’s College London, said: “It’s important people know the earliest symptoms are wide-ranging. Testing guidance could be updated to enable cases to be picked up earlier, especially in the face of new variants which are highly transmissible.

“This could include using widely-available lateral flow tests for people with any of these non-core symptoms.”

Professor Tim Spector, Scientific co-founder of ZOE and Professor of epidemiology at King’s College London added: “ZOE continues to drive the public health message that there are more than just three symptoms of COVID.

“Our data shows symptoms are more mild and comparable to that of a bad cold, with a runny nose, headache and a sore throat among the top symptoms for all groups.

“It seems unlikely that the government is going to change the official list anytime soon, so we are calling on people to spread the word. If you or anyone in your household feels ill, do a lateral flow test and if you test positive, confirm it with a PCR test.

“It’s simple, if you feel ill, take a test.”

Doctor Liane dos Santos Canas, first author from the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences, at King’s College London said: “Currently, in the UK, only a few symptoms are used to recommend self-isolation and further testing. Using a larger number of symptoms and only after a few days of being unwell, using AI, we can better detect COVID-19 positive cases.

“We hope such a method is used to encourage more people to get tested as early as possible to minimise the risk of spread.”

Get vaccinated

To reduce the severity of coronavirus symptoms, you should get vaccinated.

You can get the COVID-19 vaccine if you’re aged 18 or over.

You can book appointments at a larger vaccination centre or pharmacy now, or wait to be invited to go to a local NHS service.

Published at Fri, 30 Jul 2021 14:49:00 +0000

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