AS a new highly mutated Covid variant gains speed, scientists are finding signs that the disease is changing, with it starting to affect people’s mental health.
JN.1 has been found in many countries around the world, including India, China, UK and the United States.
The sub-variant of the Omicron was named a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organisation (WHO), because of “its rapidly increasing spread”.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says JN.1 currently makes up around seven per cent of positive Covid tests analysed in a lab.
Some of the illness’s most common symptoms, like a runny nose and a cough, are still around.
Loss of taste and smell – once a typical sign of the bug – is now only reported by two to three per cent of infected Brits.
Similarly, a fever, which used to be a more common sign, was only experienced by two per cent of people.
Now, scientists are suggesting that anxiety can also be a sign that someone has become infected – though experts don’t know exactly why.
Almost 10 per cent of Brits with Covid have consistently reported anxiety, excess worrying or trouble sleeping since early November, according to the winter Covid report from the Office For National Statistics in the UK.
The most common symptom of infection with the JN.1 variant was runny nose, with 31 per cent of patients reporting the symptom, the report said.
Meanwhile, 23 per cent of people reported experiencing a cough, and 20 per cent a headache.
Nearly 20 per cent of people with the bug reported weakness and fatigue, 16 per cent reported experiencing muscle aches, and 13 per cent had a sore throat.
IMMUNITY IS WANING
It’s important to remember that symptoms of the bug have always varied from person to person.
Even before the jabs emerged, some lucky people barely got a sniffle or even experienced a single symptom.
Scientists have warned waning immunity and the virus evolving could be behind the shift in symptoms.
Prof Peter Openshaw, from Imperial College London, told the Sun last month: “Immunity falls over time, and for many, it’s been over a year since they had their last booster jabs.”
Last winter, all over-50s could have one. Now, it is only the over-65s unless you are in an at-risk group.
The number of Brits getting vaccinated is not the only thing to have changed – the virus is also evolving.
Vaccines and natural immunity only work when there is a strong match between the antibody and the virus circulating.
The more a virus changes, the less effective antibodies are at fighting it.
“The virus circulating now is quite different from the one we saw in 2020,” Prof Peter said.
“The new virus has become so much better at transmitting from person to person, and it’s likely only going to get better.
“It’s also much better at evading the immunity we currently have from infection and vaccination.”
Alongside Covid, there are a host of other viral infections that could also be making you ill this winter.
Professor Jonathan Ball of the London School of Tropical Medicine and the University of Nottingham told The Sun: “At this time of year, there’s a legion of [bugs] doing the rounds, but rarely do we test for them.
“So if you are unfortunate enough to get flu or a cold on top of Covid, that may be unpleasant.”
It is important to stress that Covid is less virulent and dangerous now than in 2020.
“Infections will be milder now, and the impact is lower if you look at the hospitalisations and death rates,” Dr Phil Gould of Coventry University added.
The 8 most common Covid symptoms:
- Runny nose (31.1 per cent)
- Cough (22.9 per cent)
- Headache (20.1 per cent)
- Weakness or tiredness (19.6 per cent)
- Muscle ache (15.8 per cent)
- Sore throat (13.2 per cent)
- Trouble sleeping (10.8 per cent)
- Worry or anxiety (10.5 per cent)