Covid: Half of people with common cold symptoms ‘likely to have Omicron’

·2-min read
A woman uses a swab to take a sample from her mouth at a NHS Test and Trace Covid-19 testing unit (Stock image) (AFP via Getty Images)

Half of people who have symptoms of the common cold actually have contracted Covid, researchers have warned. 

The Zoe Covid study team estimate a high proportion of people with a runny nose and a headache may actually be suffering from the Omicron variant. 

The new strain is spreading rapidly across the UK.

Two studies published on Wednesday based on UK hospital data suggested the variant is significantly milder than Delta but it can still cause serious illness in some people.

Lead scientist Professor Tim Spector has urged anyone with cold-like symptoms to take a test. 

“The number of new symptomatic cases has exploded over the last week,” he said.

“For most people, an Omicron positive case will feel much more like the common cold, starting with a sore throat, runny nose and a headache. 

A woman uses a swab to take a sample from her mouth at a NHS Test and Trace Covid-19 testing unit (Stock image) (AFP via Getty Images)
A woman uses a swab to take a sample from her mouth at a NHS Test and Trace Covid-19 testing unit (Stock image) (AFP via Getty Images)

“You only need to ask a friend who has recently tested positive to find this out. We need to change public messaging urgently to save lives.”

The UK reported a record daily number of Covid infections on Wednesday, with 106,122 new cases. 

In London, about one in 30 people was likely to test positive in the week to December 16 — the highest proportion for any region.

The Zoe app calculated the figures by comparing the number of new cases of a cold-like illness to the number of new cases of confirmed Covid.

Professor Spector also said to slow the spread of Omicron the public should avoid socialising indoors, check people they are meeting are free of cold symptoms, test before meeting up and get fully vaccinated.

He added: “While the figures paint a worrying picture, the good news is that our preliminary data, based on around 2,500 probable cases reported on the Zoe app suggests that Omicron is more mild that Delta.”

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