Do you have COVID? Your symptoms may depend on your vaccination status

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is really starting to sink in.

Now that it is settling in for a long stay among mankind, researchers are finding that the symptoms it causes are increasingly resembling those of the flu, colds and even allergies.

Among the vaccinated, this tendency has become particularly pronounced. But even when unvaccinated people are infected, they often report a series of generalized symptoms that could pass for one of many other common infections, all of which are currently on the rise in the United States.

The latest update comes from the Zoe Health Study, a COVID-19 symptom tracker designed by researchers at Harvard, Stanford and King’s College in London. Results reflect symptoms reported over the past few weeks by users of the Zoe COVID study app in the UK, where new COVID cases have risen worryingly.

For example: sneezing is now a very common symptom of COVID-19, reported more and more often by vaccinated people.

It appears to be part of a change in COVID-19 symptoms introduced by the Omicron variant, said Dr. John O’Horo, an infectious disease physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Omicron infections cause more upper respiratory tract symptoms. than infections triggered by earlier variants, which were more likely to lead to pneumonia and other lower respiratory illnesses.

These days, O’Horo said, “I don’t think it’s really possible, from the early symptoms of patients, to distinguish COVID from what we’ve long called ‘flu-like illnesses.’ ” This means coronavirus tests will be an important tool in distinguishing between influenza and COVID-19, he added.

Continuing testing will also help the CDC track the progress of COVID-19 and pave the way for patients infected with the coronavirus who are at risk of becoming seriously ill to be referred for antivirals and other treatments.

From the earliest days of the pandemic, fever, cough and shortness of breath were considered hallmark symptoms of COVID-19. Several months into the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added chills, muscle aches, headaches and sore throats.

Before long, patient apps and websites drew the CDC’s attention to loss of taste and smell, as well as rarer symptoms such as “COVID fingers” and “COVID toes.” – two examples of rashes that are sometimes a patient’s only sign of illness.

Zoe Health’s new update on common COVID-19 symptoms saw the most notable changes in reports of people who received at least two doses of the vaccine before becoming infected. For this group, shortness of breath, which had long been in the top five, was downgraded to the 28th most frequently cited symptom. Loss of smell is now #6 – still quite common. And the fever is now No. 8.

The new symptom grading for people who have received at least two doses of the vaccine is as follows:

1. Sore throat
2. Runny nose
3. Stuffy nose
4. Persistent cough
5. Headaches

Reports of sneezing as a COVID symptom emerged from people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine. But sneezing was not widely reported by those who weren’t vaccinated.

Yet the suite of symptoms reported by unvaccinated people was not dramatically different from those reported by fully vaccinated but unvaccinated people. For the most part, they just appeared in a different order:

1. Headaches
2. Sore throat
3. Runny nose
4. Fever
5. Persistent cough

And for those who only received a single dose of vaccine, sneezing made the list instead of fever or a stuffy nose:

1. Headaches
2. Runny nose
3. Sore throat
4. Sneeze
5. Persistent cough

In the United States, online apps that tracked COVID-19 symptoms over time never gained much traction due to political suspicions and privacy concerns, said Enbal Shacham, professor of behavioral health and of Science at Saint Louis University’s College of Public Health and Social Justice.

Shachem and his colleagues have designed such an app, and Google and Apple have also launched one. But their use was limited by the fact that symptom data collection was incidental to the main design of the apps – to facilitate contact tracing.

This has deprived researchers and public health officials of important information about how a coronavirus infection unfolds and how that clinical picture has changed over time, Shacham said. Physicians have a clear idea of ​​the clinical pathways critically ill patients follow because they are in hospitals under observation, but the mild and moderate illnesses that account for the majority of COVID-19 cases are less well understood.

“We could have a lot more information about when people’s symptoms appear, how they change over time, how people’s experiences differ,” she said. “We really could know so much more, and in real time, than we do.”

Leave a Comment