IN a short space of just a few years, the symptoms of Covid have changed in some surprising ways.
Doctors are finding signs of the diseases are now following a very distinctive pattern.
The illness’ past telltale signs, like the loss of sense of taste or smell, a hacking cough, and shortness of breath have become less common.
Now, medics have found the bug instead affects the upper respiratory tract, which includes the nose and voice box.
Dr Erick Eiting from Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York, US, said: “It isn’t the same typical symptoms that we were seeing before.
“It’s a lot of congestion, sometimes sneezing, usually a mild sore throat.”
The sore throat emerges first followed by a stuffy nose, he explained.
UK doctors have noticed a similar switch up in symptoms.
In February 2021, GPs called for a runny nose and sore throat to be added to the UK’s official list of Covid symptoms.
The NHS website says the three main symptoms of Covid are high temperature, a new and continuous cough, and a loss of taste and smell.
While it list upper respiratory tract symptoms too, they currently fall under the category of less common symptoms.
A runny or stuffy nose are still considered ‘rare’, and a sore throat is listed as occurring ‘sometimes’.
The Zoe COVID Symptom Study, which collects data on self-reported symptoms in the UK documented the same pattern.
Its found a sore throat became more common after the omicron variant grew dominant in late 2021, while loss of taste and smell fell to the wayside.
“Just about everyone who I’ve seen has had really mild symptoms,” Dr Erick told NBC News.
Dr Grace McComsey, at Case Western University, US, said the sore throat associated with Covid “burned”.
Along with congestion, doctors said, some patients experience a headache, fatigue, muscle aches, fever, chills or post-nasal drip that may lead to a cough.
Dr Grace estimated as few as 10 per cent of her Covid patients lose their sense of taste or smell now, compared to upwards of 70 per cent earlier in the pandemic.
Dr Eric said he hasn’t seen much diarrhoea lately, which was a more common symptom in the past.
Experts believe the vaccine roll out and immunity from prior infection is behind the symptom change.
Virologist Dr Dan Barouch, said: “Overall, the severity of Covid is much lower than it was a year ago and two years ago.
“That’s not because the variants are less robust. It’s because the immune responses are higher”.
It comes as over 65s in England are being urged to get a top-up booster vaccine against Covid while more people are coming into hospitals with the virus.
Those who are eligible can book via the NHS website, on the NHS app, or by calling 119.
The rollout has been brought forward as a precaution against a highly-mutated new ‘Pirola’ Covid variant called BA.2.86.
While hospital numbers are up, intensive care admissions remain low, suggesting symptoms have lessened in severity.
Although the virus is mutating and changing, the vaccines still provide good protection against getting very sick with Covid, say experts.
Hospital admissions of patients testing positive for Covid are now at the highest rate since the end of April, at 4.6 per 100,000 people.
That is still below the level reached last winter – 11.8 per 100,000.
Rates remain highest among people aged 85 and over, followed by 75 to 84-year-old’s.
Source of data and images: thesun