UK’s list of Covid symptoms to expand to SEVEN to include chills, appetite loss and muscle aches, experts say
- Scientists claim the current list of 4 symptoms means some cases are missed
- The list of 7 symptoms could quadruple the number of Britons who have to self-isolate
- But scientists say this would lead to three-quarters of Covid cases being caught
Britain’s official list of Covid symptoms should be increased from four to seven to accommodate more cases of the virus, experts say.
Currently, only people with a high fever, a new persistent cough, a loss or change in their sense of smell or taste are advised to take a free NHS PCR test.
They are then told to self-isolate at home until they get their results back.
But a Department of Health-funded study by researchers at Imperial College London argues for the benefits of expanding the list for chills, decreased appetite and muscle aches.
Adding the extra three symptoms would help detect up to three-quarters of all infected people, they claim.
The study claims that currently only 10 percent of Covid patients qualify for a test according to current symptom criteria, suggesting that a significant number are slipping through the cracks.
A team of experts wants the official list of Covid symptoms to be expanded from four to seven, adding common symptoms of seasonal flu, such as chills, loss of appetite and muscle aches. While this means many needing to self-isolate unnecessarily, the experts say the current list means many Covid-positive cases are slipping through the cracks and potentially spreading the virus (stock)
Expanding the list of symptoms could also quadruple the number of people eligible for a free PCR test.
The researchers’ work, published in PLOS Medicine, was based on data from 1.15 million PCR test results obtained between June 2020 and January 2021.
Volunteers were all asked about symptoms they had experienced in the week prior to getting their test.
Of the possible list of 26 symptoms, including conditions such as diarrhea and dizziness, scientists found seven were good indicators of a positive Pap smear return.
Professor Paul Elliott, one of the researchers, said the current approach of asking people to watch out for just four Covid symptoms meant that people who would have to self-isolate are spreading the virus.
He said: “These findings suggest that many people with Covid will not be tested – and therefore will not be in self-isolation – because their symptoms do not match those used in current public health guidelines to help identify infected people.”
Professor Elliot admitted that adding symptoms common to illnesses like the flu could mean that many people could be forced to self-isolate unnecessarily.
But he insisted the evidence showed it could be worth it.
“We understand that there is a need for clear testing criteria and that including many of the symptoms common to other illnesses, such as seasonal flu, could lead to people going into needless self-isolation,” he said.
“I hope our findings on the most informative symptoms mean that the testing program can make use of the available evidence, optimizing the detection of infected people.”
US health chiefs are already recognizing chills and muscle aches as Covid symptoms in their official guidelines, along with others such as diarrhea and vomiting.
Researchers from King’s College London have also called for the official list of symptoms to be expanded.
Professor Tim Spector said vaccines have left people who have contracted the virus with a milder form of the illness similar to a cold, with sneezing being a new symptom.
He has argued that it is critical that cold symptoms are recognized as possible signs of Covid and that those who have them should get tested for the virus.
What is the current official list of Covid symptoms?
Currently, the UK government says people should have a PCR test as soon as possible if they have any of the following symptoms, even if they are mild:
- a high temperature
- a new, persistent cough
- a loss or change in your sense of smell
- a loss or change in your sense of taste
The new study recommends adding three new symptoms to this list to maximize Covid detection in the community, these are:
- loss of appetite
- muscle strain
sources: NHS and PLOS Medicine