What are the Delta variant symptoms and how do they differ from 'normal' Covid?

Symptoms are closer to a common cold than flu and fever, leading many to shrug it off and continue to unknowingly spread it

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People living in areas where the Delta variant of the coronavirus, first recorded in India, is spreading should look out for different symptoms to other strains, doctors say.

The Delta variant is proving more infectious than earlier strains.

Earlier this year, data from Public Health England indicated more than 90 per cent of new Covid-19 cases in the UK are the Delta variant.

Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia in the UK, told The National that clinicians have reported different markers for the virus among recently infected people.

This means that the first thing someone may now experience when catching Covid-19 is not the familiar cough.

So what should you look out for?

What are 'normal' Covid-19 symptoms?

Most people who are infected with Covid-19 will experience a dry cough, a fever and loss of smell and taste.

What is the Delta variant?

Delta is the name given to the variant first detected last October in India.

There, it caused a devastating second wave of cases and led the UAE to bar nearly all passengers from travelling from India to the Emirates.

The Delta variant has spread to many countries around the world and has been blamed in particular for surges of cases in the UK and Russia.

British authorities have said the Delta variant was "60 per cent more infectious" than the Alpha strain, first detected in the UK.

Is the Delta variant in the UAE?

Residents and workers are a big show for PCR free tests at the  SEHA Covid-19 Drive-Through Service Center at 6th Street, Musaffah in Abu Dhabi on June 17th, 2021.  There is a huge demand for vaccinations and PCRs after the green pass restrictions. Victor Besa / The National.
Reporter: Shireena Al Nowais for News
Clinicians recommend getting a PCR test if you have any symptoms. Victor Besa / The National

The World Health Organisation stated last week that the Delta strain was now present in 132 countries, one of which is the UAE.

At a Covid-19 briefing held at the end of June, officials said Delta accounted for one in three new cases of Covid-19 across the Emirates.

Data at the time found the Beta strain was the most prevalent – at 39.2 per cent – followed by Delta at 33.9 per cent and lastly Alpha with 11.3 per cent.

Current vaccines are “not quite as effective” at preventing illness in people infected with the Delta variant, but do still work, said Dr Andrew Freedman, an infectious diseases specialist at Cardiff University in the UK.

People who have had a full course of two injections of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are 88 per cent less likely to develop symptomatic illness if they subsequently become infected with the Delta variant, compared with 93 per cent less likely with the Alpha variant.

When it comes to preventing hospital admission, two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot are 96 per cent effective against the Delta variant, according to Public Health England data.

How do Delta variant symptoms differ?

Prof Hunter said doctors were reporting different symptoms.

“You’re getting more cold-like symptoms, sore throat and sneezing,” he said.

Fever remains quite common, but he said that damage to the sense of smell was not being reported with the Delta variant.

Headaches and a runny nose are being recorded as common symptoms.

Why might the symptoms be changing?

The Delta variant may cause the body to react differently, said Prof Hunter.

“This doesn’t surprise me because if you look at the other human coronaviruses – there are mainly four – they essentially cause the common cold in most of us.”

It is also possible that some of those infected with the Delta variant have previously been infected or had a vaccine.

Therefore, they are experiencing different symptoms because they already have the antibodies to fight off the virus.

Roy Cooper / The National
Roy Cooper / The National

Why is this important?

If people think they merely have a head cold, then they might not think to test for Covid-19.

This results in an increased number of infected people going about daily life and spreading the virus.

Parents may presume their child simply has a sniffle and send them to school.

This can lead to Covid-19 spreading quickly within the community.

Doctors recommend taking a PCR test as a precaution.