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July 13, 2021

Delta variant symptoms differ from previous COVID-19 illnesses, doctors say

The infection presents more like the common cold

Illness COVID-19
Delta variant symptoms Public domain image/Pexels

People infected with the Delta variant are more likely to experience nasal congestion, sore throat and headache during the initial stages of infection.

Some doctors are reporting that COVID-19 patients infected with the Delta variant are experiencing different symptoms than other coronavirus patients, though most evidence is anecdotal. 

Instead of the loss of taste and smell, often one of the first COVID-19 symptoms, these patients are more likely to experience nasal congestion, sore throat and headache during the initial stages of infection.

The Delta variant originated in India, but now is the dominant variant in the U.S. It accounts for more than 51% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

While it isn't dominant in the Philadelphia region yet, public health officials in New Jersey have just reported that it is the dominant variant there. Forty-one percent of the state's new variant cases in June were caused by the Delta variant.

Health experts are concerned that this variant will hit the unvaccinated hard, causing a surge in cases and hospitalizations. Patients with this variant are more likely to have complications and need oxygen.

Since these symptoms aren't specific to COVID-19, doctors say it is easier for people to brush them off as allergies or just a minor cold. Symptoms of the Delta variant include stomach pain, sore throat, headache, stuffy nose, loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, joint pain and hearing loss.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the most common symptoms suggesting a COVID-19 infection were fever, cough, shortness of breath and loss of taste and smell. Now, according to researchers at King's College London, the top COVID-19 symptoms being reported are headache, sore throat, runny nose, fever and persistent cough.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the best way to protect yourself against the Delta variant is to get vaccinated. All three of the currently available vaccines – Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer – offer protection. Early research has shown that people who are fully vaccinated are at very low risk of getting sick from the Delta variant.

If you are experiencing any of the possible COVID-19 symptoms, get tested as soon as possible, even if you just think it is just a cold. If you have been vaccinated, talk to your primary care doctor about whether testing is necessary.

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