From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 29, 2021 -- COVID-19 symptoms such as cough, fatigue, sore throat and muscle pain seem to be more common for people who test positive for the new coronavirus variant that was first identified in the U.K., according to a new study from the UK’s Office for National Statistics.

Loss of taste and smell seem to be less common with the variant, though only slightly. Headaches, shortness of breath, diarrhea and vomiting continue to remain common and are similar for both strains of the coronavirus.

The study is based on positive tests from a random sample of 6,000 people in England who tested between mid-November and mid-January. The research team analyzed symptoms that were reported up to a week before a positive test for the new variant or the original strain of the coronavirus.

Among 3,500 people with the new variant:

  • 35% reported a cough
  • 32% had fatigue
  • 25% had muscle aches and pain
  • 22% had a sore throat
  • 16% had a loss of taste
  • 15% had a loss of smell

Among 2,500 people with the original strain:

  • 28% reported a cough
  • 29% had fatigue
  • 21% had muscle aches and pain
  • 19% had a sore throat
  • 18% had a loss of taste
  • 18% had a loss of smell

The mutations in the new variant could make the strain more contagious, Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, told the Science Media Centre. Patients who contract the U.K. variant appear to produce higher viral loads, he said, which could lead to more widespread infection in the body and may account for the higher percentages of coughs, muscle pain and fatigue.

“Some of these changes in different parts of the virus could affect the body’s immune response and also influence the range of symptoms associated with infection,” he said.

Show Sources

Office for National Statistics, “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey: Characteristics of people testing positive for COVID-19 in England, 27 January 2021.”

Science Media Centre, “Expert reaction to changes in COVID symptoms associated with the UK variant as indicated in the ONS Infection Survey.”

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