It’s the New Year and COVID cases continue to rise in the country and across the globe. The country’s COVID caseload has seen a significant jump thanks to the new JN.1 sub-variant, which experts call highly transmissible but milder.
And as the highly-contagious Omicron subvariant (JN.1) spreads across the country as well as the world, there are also two new symptoms to watch out for, according to medical experts.
However, experts have cautioned that these symptoms may vary according to the patient. In fact, the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had said, “The types of symptoms and how severe they usually depend more on a person’s immunity and overall health rather than which variant causes the infection.”
Read on to find out more.
The new COVID symptoms
The identification of the new symptoms was first reported by the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics. The December 2023 data has revealed that besides the usual symptoms of runny noses, coughs, headaches and weakness that are associated with COVID, some patients have been exhibiting new symptoms, namely trouble sleeping and anxiety.
The ONS winter report, published on 22 December, showed that 10 per cent of individuals who had tested positive for COVID complained of anxiety or excessive worrying.
Furthermore, the data revealed that the more common symptom of losing taste and smell were now only in two to three per cent of all UK COVID cases.
The report gave a breakdown of the COVID symptoms, with a runny nose (31.1 per cent) still being the foremost sign of contracting COVID. The data also said that cough cough (22.9 per cent), headache (20.1 per cent), fatigue (19.6 per cent), muscle pain (15.8 per cent), sore throat (13.2 per cent), trouble sleeping (10.8 per cent), and anxiety (10.5 per cent) were the other common symptoms now being displayed by people infected with the virus.
While a runny nose and fever still remain the top symptoms of COVID, having trouble sleeping and anxiety are the two new symptoms to watch out for
Since the emergence of the COVID pandemic, medical experts have been pinpointing the symptoms that people need to watch out for. However, as the virus continues to mutate, experts say this exercise has become more difficult. In fact, Dr Helen Wall, clinical director of population health for NHS Greater Manchester, told Mirror.co.uk, “There aren’t really any symptoms we can look out for anymore that definitely tell us it’s COVID. It can literally be any respiratory symptoms, and many others as well – COVID can masquerade as any respiratory illness.
“I have heard so many of my colleagues in the past week testing positive for COVID without any of the original symptoms we heard so much of during the peak of the pandemic. It can be really hard to distinguish whether it is coronavirus – or what it might be instead.”
Spread of COVID in India and around the world
The news of the new symptoms comes at a time when COVID infections are on the rise in India as well as across the globe. In fact, last December, the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed the JN.1 strain as a ‘variant of interest’.
On Tuesday, India reported a total of 312 cases of COVID-19 sub-variant JN.1, with about 47 per cent of them recorded in Kerala. Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) data reveals that 10 states and two Union Territories have so far detected the subvariant of the virus. They are Kerala (147), Goa (51), Gujarat (34), Maharashtra (26), Tamil Nadu (22), Delhi (16), Karnataka (eight), Rajasthan (five), Telangana (two), and Odisha (one).
A healthcare worker takes the sample of a man for COVID-19 testing, amid a rise in coronavirus cases in the country, in Jammu. PTI
And on Wednesday, the health ministry stated that the country had reported 602 fresh infections recorded in the past 24 hours. Moreover, five COVID-related deaths were also registered – each in Karnataka, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, while two in Kerala.
The rise in infections has prompted the Centre to issue an advisory to all states and Union Territories to maintain a constant vigil. Moreover, some states have issued new advisories to their citizens. For instance, Karnataka has mandated mask-wearing for those above the age of 60 and those with co-morbidities.
And on Thursday, Maharashtra’s COVID Task Force has advised people who test positive for COVID-19 to observe a home isolation of five days.
And it’s not just India. Across the globe, there has been a rise in COVID infections, with most experts attributing it to the emergence of the JN.1 subvariant. In the United States, mask mandates in hospital have been reinstated in four states. Healthcare facilities in New York, California, Illinois and Massachusetts have made masks mandatory among patients and providers, owing to the surge in COVID cases.
Other parts of the world are also complaining of a rise in COVID infections.
But experts, by far, aren’t particularly too worried. Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, had told the New York Times, “We’re not seeing the signs that would make me think that we’re heading into another severe wave. So far, we’re in relatively good shape.”
Indian medical experts also concurred with this view, saying that the trajectory of cases didn’t indicate a new wave. Dr Rajath Athreya, senior consultant and head of the department (paediatrics and neonatology), Sakra World Hospital, told The Hindu, “Going by the global trajectory, we are unlikely to see another wave. However, we will have to wait and watch for the next few weeks after New Year to understand the intensity of the surge.”
Doctors have said that people must follow good hygiene practices such as hand-washing to prevent the spread of the virus. They have also said that taking the vaccine is a good way to protect oneself from the virus and asked that people test more for COVID.
With inputs from agencies