The coronavirus seems to be evolving at a fast rate. According to the most recent data, the COVID-19 positive patients affected by the Delta variant are showing symptoms different than those commonly associated with COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic. The variant was first detected in India in late 2020, and it is said to have contributed to the high number of cases during the second wave. By mid-June, the variant spread to 74 countries worldwide, contributing to 10% of cases in the USA. Hence it’s crucial to work on a COVID delta variant vaccine at the earliest.
Human biology is dynamic by nature. And with our differences come different immune systems. So there’s a possibility that the same virus can cause different symptoms in different ways.
A sign is something that can be seen, such as a rash. A symptom, however, is something that can be felt, like a sore throat.
Any illness caused by a virus depends on:
Viral factors: this includes speed or replication, modes of transmission, and so on. These can change as and when the virus evolves.
Host factors: this is specific to each individual – age, gender, medications, diet, exercise, health and so on.
Hence, when we talk about signs and symptoms, we need to take into account what’s common amongst all.
Common signs and symptoms
What are the common symptoms of people getting infected by the Delta variant? According to data from the United Kingdom that used a self-reporting system through a mobile app, it looks like the common symptoms have changed considerably. Although the report didn’t take into account which variant the participants/ patients suffered from, given that the Delta variant is most dominant in the UK at present, it would be safe to assume that the symptoms are reflective of that variant.
Symptoms that were common for both older and newer variants were fever, cough, headache and sore throat. But a runny nose was detected in newer patients—however, loss of smell which was quite common earlier, now ‘ranks’ ninth.
It’s important to note that this data might not be very reliable, as there might be valid reasons why the symptoms have evolved the way they did. Since the data was coming from patients who were already in the hospital, therefore they were likely to be sicker than the average infected person. Also, due to the higher focus of vaccination of older people, younger people are now contributing to a greater proportion of Covid cases, and they might reflect milder symptoms. These might also affect and delay research on the delta variant vaccine.
Why the symptoms are changing due to the variant, however, is still a mystery. Although we are still trying to understand the Delta variant, this information still proves to be vital as it suggests that what might look like a mild winter cold — a runny nose and a sore throat — could be a case of COVID-19.
A point to be noted here is the power of public science and how crucial it is in determining the effects of diseases. At the same time, we need to be objective and keep in mind that we are at a very early stage of research to conclude anything as the cases haven’t been fully analysed, according to the best hospital in Dubai. That is, the ‘host factors’, as mentioned earlier, haven’t been accounted for. Also, as is the case with all self-reported data, we must consider the possibility that there may be some flaws in the results.