As hospital admissions increase, medical professionals around the world face the challenge of differentiating COVID-19 symptoms from those caused by the common cold or allergies.
Traditional symptoms of COVID-19, such as a persistent dry cough and loss of taste and smell, are becoming less severe and primarily affect the upper respiratory system.
Erick Eiting, vice president of emergency medicine operations at Mount Sinai Downtown in New York, has observed changes in the presentation of COVID-19.
He told NBC News that a sore throat often indicates the beginning of an infection, followed by congestion. Similarly, the UK’s Zoe COVID-19 Symptoms Study echoes this observation, highlighting an increase in sore throat cases and a decrease in anosmia events with the emergence of the Omicron variant.
Healthcare providers are now identifying a more clear and consistent pattern of COVID-19 symptoms.
“Almost all the patients I examined had mild symptoms. We could only confirm it was COVID-19 through the tests we performed,” Eiting said.
The progression of symptoms varies from patient to patient, and some people experience an intense burning sensation in their throat.
However, when congestion occurs, this discomfort usually lessens. Other possible symptoms may include headache, fatigue, muscle pain, fever, chills, or a runny nose causing a cough.
Grace McComsey, a physician at Case Western University, reports that fatigue and muscle soreness typically last a few days, while congestion may last weeks.
He saw a significant decrease in patients losing their sense of taste or smell, a more common symptom in the early stages of the pandemic.
On the positive side, most patients do not require hospitalization and recover without antiviral treatment.
Michael Daignault, an emergency physician at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, noted that most patients with upper respiratory symptoms are discharged with supportive care.
Why is this milder version of COVID-19 emerging?
Milder versions of COVID-19 are primarily due to immunity gained through vaccines and previous infections.
Dan Baruch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research in Boston, noted that the severity of the disease has been significantly less than in previous years.
This reduction is not due to a reduced potency of the variant, but to an improved immune response.
However, there are about 19,000 hospitalizations in the United States each week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The most susceptible groups are the elderly and infants under six months of age. Most hospitalized patients have not received booster vaccines since the beginning of the year.
Although the trend is toward milder symptoms, long-term COVID-19 remains a concern.
The National Institutes of Health’s coronavirus “recovery plan” continues to record new cases.
McConsey, the project’s lead researcher, warned against underestimating the current rise in infections.
“We continue to see patients with the old strain still having symptoms. We are also increasing this number with new variants. So I urge people not to take it lightly,” he added.
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