Covid ‘masquerading as any respiratory illness’ warns doctor – symptoms have changed

During the winter period it is expected that a number of illnesses will be doing the rounds. The cooler temperatures and the fact we spend more time indoors with other people makes it easier for certain infections to spread.

Since 2020, coronavirus has been one such illness, joining the common cold and flu as something to be extra wary of over the festive period. In recent weeks, data has shown this trend is set to continue as Covid cases in England and Wales have risen.

While many of us are aware of the common symptoms of Covid that were prevalent at the beginning of the pandemic, these have shifted with the introduction of vaccines as well as how the virus has mutated. As a result you might experience different symptoms now compared to if you caught Covid three years ago.

Now an expert has warned that it could be especially hard to know if you have Covid, due to its similarities shared with other illnesses. Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, GP and clinical director of population health for NHS Greater Manchester, Doctor Helen Wall, said: “There aren’t really any symptoms we can look out for anymore that definitely tell us it’s Covid.

“It can literally be any respiratory symptoms, and many others as well – Covid can masquerade as any respiratory illness.

“I have heard so many of my colleagues in the past week testing positive for Covid without any of the original symptoms we heard so much of during the peak of the pandemic.

“It can be really hard to distinguish whether it is coronavirus – or what it might be instead.”

Due to the nature of the illness, common signs of Covid include shortness of breath, fatigue and a new continuous cough.

It can also cause things like a runny or blocked nose, headache, diarrhoea and being sick.

However, these could easily be mistaken for the flu or another winter bug currently circulating called norovirus.

Some experts say the newest strains of Covid could cause more severe symptoms than before though.

Professor Eleanor Riley, an immunologist at the University of Edinburgh, said she experienced her own “horrid” bout of Covid that was “much worse” than expected.

She told the BBC: “People’s antibody levels against Covid are probably as low now as they have been since the vaccine was first introduced.

“Now, because antibodies are lower, a higher dose [of the virus] is getting through and causing a more severe bout of disease.”

As reported, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified the JN.1 strain of Covid a “variant of interest”, meaning it will be tracked.

The variant is a mutation of the BA.2.86 strain – also known as Pirola, which itself was descended from Omicron.

Health bodies and experts are therefore wary about how transmissible it could be.

Dr William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told : “One of the things these (Omicron variants) have in common is that they are highly contagious, and as new variants crop up, they seem to be as contagious or even more contagious than the previous variants.”

It is thought symptoms of JN.1 are similar to those caused by Omicron such as runny nose, cough, sore throat, fatigue, muscle pain and fever.

If you experience symptoms of Covid the NHS advises staying home and avoiding contact with others for five days if possible.

You should avoid contact with vulnerable people for at least 10 days.

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