UK’s Covid symptoms list should be expanded to SEVEN to include chills, loss of appetite and muscle pains, experts say
- Scientists claim current list of 4 symptoms means some cases are being missed
- The 7 symptom list could quadruple the number of Brits needing to self isolate
- But scientists say this would result in three quarters of Covid cases being caught
Britain’s official Covid symptoms list should be boosted from four to seven to catch more cases of the virus, experts say.
Currently only people with a high temperature, a new continuous cough, a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste are advised to get a free NHS PCR test.
They are then told to self-isolate at home until they get their results back.
But a Department of Health-funded study by Imperial College London researchers argues the merits of expanding the list to include chills, a loss of appetite and muscle pains.
Adding the extra three symptoms would help spot up to three-quarters of all infected people, they claim.
The study claims that currently only 10 per cent of Covid patients qualify for a test under the current symptom criteria, which suggests a significant number are slipping through the cracks.
A team of experts want the official list of Covid symptoms expanded from four to seven, adding common signs of seasonal flu such as chills, loss of appetite and muscle pains. While doing means many will have to self-isolate unnecessarily the experts say the current list mean many Covid positive cases are slipping through the cracks and potentially spreading the virus (stock)
Expanding the symptoms list could also quadruple the number of people eligible for a free PCR test.
The researchers’ work, published in PLOS Medicine, was based on data of 1.15million PCR test results obtained between June 2020 and January 2021.
Volunteers were all asked about the symptoms they experienced in the week prior to getting their test.
Out of possible list of 26 symptoms, which included conditions such as diarrhoea and dizziness, scientists found seven were good indicators of a swab returning positive.
Professor Paul Elliott, one of the researchers, said the current approach of asking people to watch out for only four Covid symptoms meant people who should be self-isolating were out spreading the virus.
He said: ‘These findings suggest many people with Covid won’t be getting tested – and therefore won’t be self-isolating – because their symptoms don’t match those used in current public health guidance to help identify infected people.’
Professor Elliot admitted adding symptoms commonly found in illnesses such as flu could mean many people could be forced to self-isolate unnecessarily.
But he insisted the evidence showed it could be worth it.
‘We understand that there is a need for clear testing criteria, and that including lots of symptoms which are commonly found in other illnesses like seasonal flu could risk people self-isolating unnecessarily,’ he said.
‘I hope our findings on the most informative symptoms mean the testing programme can take advantage of the available evidence, helping to optimise the detection of infected people.’
US health chiefs already recognise chills and muscle aches as Covid symptoms in their official guidance, in addition to others such as diarrhoea and vomiting.
King’s College London researchers have also asked for the official symptoms list to be expanded.
Professor Tim Spector said that vaccines have seen people catching the virus suffer a milder form of the disease similar to a cold, with sneezing emerging as a new symptom.
He has argued that it is crucial that cold-like symptoms are recognised as possible signs of Covid and those who have them should get tested for the virus.
What is the current official Covid symptoms list?
Currently the UK government says people need to get a PCR test as soon as possible if they have any of the following symptoms, even if mild:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
- a loss or change to your sense of smell
- a loss or change to your sense of taste
The new study recommends that three new symptoms are added to this list to maximize Covid detection in the community, these are:
- appetite loss
- muscle aches
Sources: NHS and PLOS Medicine