- Scientists claim current list of 4 symptoms means some cases are missing
- 7 symptom list could quadruple the number of Britons who need to self-isolate
- But scientists say that this will catch three-quarters of the cases of Kovid.
Experts say Britain’s official Covid symptom list should be increased from four to seven to catch more cases of the virus.
Currently only people with a high temperature, a new persistent cough, loss or change in their sense of smell or taste are advised to have a free NHS PCR test.
They are then asked to self-isolate at home till their results are back.
But the Department of Health-funded study by researchers at Imperial College London argues that the list goes on to include chills, loss of appetite and muscle aches.
He claims that adding an additional three symptoms would help reach three-quarters of all infected people.
The study claimed that currently only 10 per cent of COVID patients qualify for testing under the existing symptom criteria, which suggests that a significant number is slipping through the cracks.
A team of experts wants the official list of Covid symptoms to increase from four to seven, which include common symptoms of seasonal flu such as chills, loss of appetite and muscle aches. While doing so means many people will have to self-isolate unnecessarily, experts say the current list means many Covid positive cases are slipping through the cracks and potentially spreading the virus (stock).
Expanding the list of symptoms could also quadruple the number of people eligible for the free PCR test.
The researchers’ work, published in PLOS Medicine, was based on data from 1.15 million PCR test results obtained between June 2020 and January 2021.
The volunteers were asked about all the symptoms they experienced in the week before their test.
Out of a possible list of 26 symptoms, which included conditions such as diarrhea and dizziness, the scientists found seven A swab returning positive was a good indicator.
One of the researchers, Professor Paul Elliott, said the current approach of asking people to look for only four COVID symptoms meant that people who should self-isolate were spreading the virus.
He said: ‘These findings suggest that many people with COVID will not be tested – and therefore will not self-isolate – because their symptoms are used in current public health guidance to help identify those infected. Do not match the ones made.’
Professor Elliott acknowledged that symptoms commonly found in flu-like illnesses could mean that many people may be forced to self-isolate unnecessarily.
But he stressed that the evidence shows it may be worth it.
“We understand that there is a need for clearer testing criteria, and that people may be at risk of self-isolating unnecessarily, including many of the symptoms commonly found in other diseases such as seasonal flu,” he said.
‘I hope that our findings on the most informative of symptoms mean that the testing program can take advantage of available evidence, to help detect people who are infected.’
US health chiefs already recognize cold and muscle aches as COVID symptoms in their official guidance, among others such as diarrhea and vomiting.
Researchers at King’s College London have also asked for the official list of symptoms to be expanded.
Professor Tim Spector said vaccines have seen people who catch the virus suffer a mild form of illness similar to a cold, with sneezing emerging as a new symptom.
They have argued that it is important that cold-like symptoms are recognized as possible symptoms of Covid and that those who have it should get tested for the virus.
What is the current official COVID symptoms list?
Currently the UK government says people need to have a PCR test as soon as possible if they have any of the following symptoms, even if they are mild:
- high temperature
- a new, persistent cough
- decrease or change in your sense of smell
- decrease or change in your sense of taste
The new study recommends that three new symptoms be added to this list for the detection of COVID in the community, these are:
- loss of appetite
- muscle pain