If You Have This Symptom, You're Less Likely to Have the New COVID Strain

This one symptom is "significantly less common" with the U.K. variant, researchers say.

As COVID cases soared across the nation last month, news emerged that a more contagious variant of COVID-19 originating in the U.K. had made its way to U.S. soil. Estimated to be up to 70 percent more transmissible—not to mention potentially more deadly, according to English Prime Minister Boris Johnson—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that the U.K. strain could quickly become dominant in the U.S. by March. To help tame it, the U.K.'s Office for National Statistics (ONS) is racing to gather information about this particular variant—including how to spot it. Read on for the symptoms that differentiate this strain, and for more on where the mutations are cropping up in the U.S., find out How Many Cases of the New COVID Strains Are in Your State.

A new ONS report analyzed the symptoms of a random sample of 6,000 patients who tested positive for COVID in England between Nov. 15, 2020 and Jan. 16, 2021. The researchers' aim was to identify which particular symptoms are more and less closely associated with the new variant when compared with other cases of the virus. Ultimately they found that one symptom stood out as being less common in cases of the U.K. strain: loss of taste and smell.

"People testing positive compatible with the new U.K. variant were more likely to report any symptoms and the classic symptoms, but were less likely to report loss of taste and smell," their findings explain. "Loss of taste and loss of smell were significantly less common in new variant."

Loss of smell was present in 15 percent of U.K. variant cases, compared to 18 percent of other cases. Loss of taste was present in 16 percent of U.K. variant cases, compared again with 18 percent of other cases. However, while the numbers are statistically significant, the presence or absence of these or any symptoms cannot definitively identify one strain or another at this time.

Wondering which symptoms are most closely associated with the U.K. strain? Read on for the four symptoms the study identified, and for more essential COVID news, read up on The Over-the-Counter Medication That Can Kill COVID, Study Says.


young white man standing outdoors wearing face mask and coughing

U.K. variant: 35 percent of patients

Other variants: 28 percent of patients

And for more on signs that your COVID case is a medical emergency, check out If You Have One of These Symptoms, the CDC Says Go to the Hospital Now.


Cropped shot of a young woman lying on her bed with her eyes closed

U.K. variant: 32 percent of patients

Other variants: 29 percent of patients

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Muscle aches and pains

Senior man suffering from neck pain at home on couch.

U.K. variant: 25 percent of patients

Other variants: 21 percent of patients

And for more subtle COVID symptoms to look out for, check out If You Notice This in Your Mouth, You Could Have COVID, Experts Warn.

Sore throat

man has sore throat and wear face mask at home

U.K. variant: 21.8 percent of patients

Other variants: 19 percent of patients

And for the latest in how COVID can affect you long-term, check out You May Never Be Able to Do This After Surviving COVID, Study Warns.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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