The story at a glance
- Viruses evolve over time.
- The latest symptoms of COVID-19 are tied to new dominant subtypes — BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 — that now comprise the majority of reported cases in the United States.
- Sore throat was the most commonly reported symptom, followed by runny nose and stuffy nose.
(NEXSTAR) – Like any virus, the symptoms of COVID have changed, and a new study shows they’ve changed little again.
Virus symptoms can change for a number of reasons, such as vaccines and new strains. For example, when the BA.5 omicron subtype became the dominant strain in the United States, COVID patients began to report extreme fatigue more frequently and decreased sense of taste or smell.
According to the CDC, the new symptoms are tied to new dominant subtypes — BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 now comprise the majority of cases reported in the United States.
The ZOE Health Study — a joint effort by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, King’s College London, Stanford University School of Medicine and the ZOE Health app — shared an updated list of the top current COVID symptoms. It was reported by its participants last week.
By reviewing data from study participants who tested positive for the 30 days before Dec. 5, the researchers found that sore throat was the most frequently reported symptom, followed by runny nose and stuffy nose.
Here are the top 10 reported COVID symptoms recorded in the ZOE Healthy Study since early November:
- sore throat
- Runny nose
- Blocked nose
- to behave
- Cough without phlegm
- Cough with sputum
- harsh voice
- Muscle aches and pains
- Change in sense of smell
Except for sneezing and a hoarse voice, all of these symptoms have been associated with COVID since the beginning of the pandemic, CDC data shows. Notably missing from this list compared to current CDC guidelines are gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and nausea or vomiting, and some “traditional” symptoms: loss of smell, shortness of breath, and fever.
According to ZOE, there have been fewer reports of traditional symptoms among recent COVID patients. In an October report, ZOE listed fever as the most commonly reported symptom in unvaccinated COVID patients. A recent breakdown of symptoms based on vaccination status was not immediately available.
These COVID symptoms are similar to the flu and RSV. All three respiratory viruses — currently prevalent in the United States, causing a “triple disease” — have overlapping symptoms, with some differences. A chart from Children’s National Hospital recently compared the symptoms associated with COVID, the flu, and RSV at a glance.
The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person and treatment depends on the virus. Checking your symptoms is a good place to start, and doctors recommend testing to inform next steps.
Alix Martichoux contributed to this report.