‘Tell workers: if you have a sore throat or a cold, go home’

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A London GP has called for the UK to change advice for employers and workers to reflect new research that shows a sore throat and a cold can also be symptoms of coronavirus.

New data shows that people with the new variant of Coronavirus – also known as B.1.1.7 – are less likely to experience a loss of sense of smell or taste than other symptoms. In the data published by the ONS on Saturday, it said that people with the new strain are more likely to have a sore throat, fatigue, myalgia (muscle pain), or a cough.

In an open letter to Chris Whitty, published by the BMJ, London GP Alex Sohal said people are “mostly unaware of the significance of mild symptoms” that could be covid-19 and called for the UK to change its case definition and testing criteria to include such symptoms.

People are 'mostly unaware of the significance of mild symptoms' that could be covid-19, say GPs

“Tell the public, especially those who have to go out to work and their employers, that even those with mild symptoms (not only a cough, high temperature, and a loss of smell or taste) should not go out, prioritising the first five days of self-isolation when they are most likely to be infectious,” she wrote.

She said that government must also update its testing criteria now, and to test more people with the new symptoms.

"As GPs, we regularly review patients with mild symptoms—for example, a runny or blocked nose, sore throat, hoarseness, myalgia, fatigue, and headache—who subsequently turn out to be covid-19 positive," she writes. 

The official Covid-19 symptom list, which has not been updated since May 2020, is a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste. People are currently only advised to be tested if they have these symptoms. 

Richard Tedder, senior research investigator in medical virology at Imperial College London, added that the new wave virus may appear harmless but is more infectious. “The fact that it has been reported that the second wave viruses, usually called variants, are more likely to cause symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection, i.e. coughs and colds, may indicate that it….may be more infectious.”


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