The Delta variant of COVID - also known as the Indian variant, as it was first detected in India - has really messed things up for us here in the UK. After sailing through the first three stages of the four-stage roadmap out of lockdown, we've hit a large stumbling block ahead of what should have been 'freedom day' - the removal of all social distancing measures - on 21 June. And it's all thanks to rising cases of the Delta variant, a more transmissable variant of the virus which began spreading fast in the north west of England and has now taken grip country-wide.
Watch: Delta variant symptoms - Signs of COVID-19 could be different with Indian strain - here's what to look out for
With COVID having basically ruled our lives for the past almost-18-months, we're all pretty familiar with the key symptoms of the virus. The most common signs are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. But the Delta variant can manifest differently - especially in young people - according to a Professor who has study the virus in-depth.
Professor Tim Spector, who heads up the Zoe COVID Symptom study, has described the variant as feeling "more like a bad cold" for younger people, with two symptoms in particular to look out for: a headache and a runny nose.
The Zoe app asks people to monitor any symptoms they have, as well as registering whether they've had a positive COVID test at any given time, and whether they've been vaccinated. The app has so far garnered over 170 million health reports, and according to recent findings, people who have gone on to get a positive test are actually less likely to have suffered the traditional symptoms of coronavirus.
"Since the start of May, we have been looking at the top symptoms in the app users - and they are not the same as they were," Professor Spector said. "This variant seems to be working slightly differently."
The problem is, if people dismiss any seemingly minor symptoms as the common cold and continue socialising with others, they may unknowingly have coronavirus and be spreading it. "We think this is fuelling a lot of the problem," the Professor told the BBC.
But headaches and runny noses aren't the only alternative symptoms that have been linked to the Delta variant. One doctor based in India, Dr GB Sattur, previously told a local newspaper in Bangalore about one patient, a 55-year-old man, who arrived at hospital with extreme dryness of the mouth. He also had conjunctivitis, which the GP knew to be a possible sign of the virus (it's listed by the World Health Organisation as one of the "less common" symptoms), and so he carried out further investigations.
"I had read that conjunctivitis can be one of the symptoms of COVID. Though he didn’t have a fever, he said that he was tired," explained the doctor. "I suspected that it could be a symptom of COVID and asked him to take a PCR test which turned out to be positive. He was then admitted to hospital and then recovered."
The case has led the doctor to urge his fellow clinicians to pay attention to complaints of a dry mouth when assessing possible COVID cases. "Doctors should keep an eye on tongue complaints and not ignore them," said Dr Sattur.
Speaking to Cosmopolitan earlier in the year, Bupa UK's Dr Samantha Wild reiterated that the core COVID symptoms can still apply to any variant of the virus. "We’re still very much learning about these new variants," she said. "But at present the key symptoms for any strain of COVID-19 remain the same: a continuous cough (coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours), a temperature and loss of taste or smell."
Having said that, if you notice cold-like symptoms including a runny nose or a headache, it's always better to be on the safe side and take a test before potentially exposing anyone else to the virus. Studies suggest that the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do provide immunity against the new variant, but the quicker we can slow its spread and get more people vaccinated, the quicker we can get back to normality in our holidays, weddings, and social lives.
The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Watch: What you need to know about COVID-19 variants
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