This Is the Tell-Tale Sign You Have the New COVID Strain, Study Says

A new study indicates patients should look out for one symptom in particular.

As the COVID-19 virus mutates and creates new strains of the disease, one is becoming increasingly prevalent in the U.S.—B.1.1.7, known colloquially as the U.K. variant. As of Feb. 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there to be 1,549 cases of the new strain present in the U.S., spread across 42 different states. But a new study out of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, found that the number of cases of the U.K. variant are doubling every 10 days, so it's definitely something to be on the lookout for. There is a lot of overlap between the symptoms of the existing dominant strain and the new one from the U.K., but a recent major review of cases out of Imperial College London is suggesting that one COVID symptom is increasingly likely to show up with the new U.K. variant.

The researchers who conducted the Imperial College London-led REACT study compared two sets of patient data and each COVID symptom that was associated with their case. The first set was from U.K. patients between Nov. to Dec. 2020, when it was estimated that just 16 percent of infections were related to the new variant. The second was made up of data from January, by which point 86 percent of infections in the U.K. were linked to B.1.1.7. While most symptoms were similar, there does appear to be one tell-tale sign you've contracted the U.K. strain. Read on to find out what it is, and for more on how to stay safe and avoid the virus, know that If You See This on Your Mask, the FDA Says Toss It Immediately.

Persistent cough

Elderly sick man has a cough at home
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While a cough has always been a sign of COVID, it's become more common with the U.K. variant than loss of smell, which has long been the tell-tale sign of COVID. That symptom, it turns out, has become less common with the U.K. strain, the Imperial College London-led REACT study found. Though previously common, the study shows that at the end of 2020, 8.5 percent of patients reported having a cough. In January, that jumped to 11.4 percent, with the researchers noting "increased risk for new persistent cough may be due to variant B.1.1.7."

"The proportion of people testing positive with a new persistent cough appeared to be increased, in keeping with findings from the ONS," the researchers wrote, referring to a January study from the U.K.'s Office for National Statistics, which analyzed the symptoms of 6,000 COVID patients in England who tested positive for the virus between mid-November and mid-January. According to their findings, a cough was reported among 35 percent of COVID patients with the U.K. strain, compared to 28 percent of patients with the previous strain.

However, certain additional symptoms were also more common with the U.K. variant, the Imperial College London researchers found. Read on to find out what those are.


Senior Man Suffering From a headache While Sitting on the sofa in the Living Room

Headaches were reported mostly in young people between the ages of 5 to 17, but this common symptom affected 24.2 percent of the total patients surveyed by Imperial College most recently. And for more on COVID headaches, check out This Is How to Tell If Your Headache Is COVID, Study Says.

Muscle aches

Man suffering from back pain while trying to work in the office
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In total, 16.0 percent of positive patients reported having muscle aches in January, but it was most common in those between the ages of 18 and 54. And for more signs of the U.K. variant, know that If You Have These 4 New Symptoms, You Likely Have the U.K. Strain.


Shot of a young woman feeling sick on the sofa at home
Moyo Studio / iStock

Chills affected all age groups studied by the Imperial College researchers, with 11.7 percent surveyed in January experiencing the symptom. And for more regular COVID news sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Loss of appetite

Elderly woman refusing to eat meal
KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock

In total, 11.5 percent of patients studied in January said that their appetite had diminished, but it was most common in those 18 and older. And for more on how COVID affects your sense of taste long-term, check out The One Thing COVID Patients Say They Can't Eat Anymore.

John Quinn
John Quinn is a London-based writer and editor who specializes in lifestyle topics. Read more
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