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People with UK Covid-19 variant ‘less likely to report loss of taste and smell’

Nina Massey, PA Science Correspondent
·2 min read

People infected with the new UK coronavirus variant are less likely to report a loss of taste and smell, figures suggest.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the symptoms were “significantly less common” in patients who tested positive for the new variant compared to those with other variants of Covid-19.

They are more likely to report “classic” symptoms of the virus, such as a cough and a fever.

The ONS also said other symptoms were more common in people testing positive for the new variant, with the largest differences for cough, sore throat, fatigue, myalgia and fever.

It added: “There is no evidence of difference in the gastrointestinal symptoms, shortness of breath or headaches.”

The data also indicates people with the new variant were more likely to report having symptoms.

The provisional findings were published by the ONS based on the regular Covid-19 infection survey of people in private households in England.

Symptoms were self-reported and not professionally diagnosed, and cover the period November 15 to January 16.

The NHS currently lists the main symptoms of coronavirus as a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

The new variant spreading across the UK is more transmissible than previous mutations of the virus, and scientists have said there is some data to suggest it may also be more deadly.

It was first detected in the south east of England in September, but started to cause concern in December when it was thought to be responsible for a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in the region.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, told the Downing Street press conference that symptoms are kept under regular review.

He added: “I believe that cough and fever are extremely important still in terms of the recognition of Covid-19.

“In addition the public now have access in very many places to the lateral flow tests where they can go for a test even if they are asymptomatic.

“So from that perspective we will keep it under review.”

Lawrence Young, virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said: “Mutations in the UK virus variant could influence the symptoms associated with infection.

“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.

“The virus has 23 changes compared to the original Wuhan virus.

“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.”