Last Updated: January 23, 2023, 12:10 IST

One of the BA.4 and BA.5 variations is responsible for COVID pneumonia and other severe respiratory illnesses.

One of the BA.4 and BA.5 variations is responsible for COVID pneumonia and other severe respiratory illnesses.

Experts have recognised how COVID-19 symptoms have changed through time and their implications for the future in a study that was published in the journal BMJ

The pandemic will eventually end even though the COVID-19 variant omicron has complicated the situation. The repercussion of the health crisis is that the world is now learning to co-exist with the virus that’s taking longer to go away. However, health practitioners won’t have to start from scratch. In a study, published in the journal BMJ, experts have identified how COVID-19 symptoms have been changing and their impact on the future.

How have the symptoms of COVID-19 changed over time?

As mentioned in the study, David Strain, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, noted how the common symptoms that were reported at the beginning of the pandemic were loss of smell, followed by shortness of breath, coughing, and vascular injuries. “That became the standard that we expected,” he said. However, the expert suggests that there has been an evolution of symptom clusters, as loss of smell and taste are now no longer as prevalent symptoms as they once were. “That really happened at the time of omicron. Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.2 seemed to migrate from [infecting mainly] lungs and nervous tissue to the upper airways. BA.1 for many people was little more than a severe head cold,” he added. While identifying some of the common symptoms of COVID-19 in recent times, he listed upper respiratory symptoms, fever, myalgia, fatigue, sneezing, and sore throat to be a few.

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What makes these changed symptoms worrisome?

Another expert, Betty Raman, who is a senior clinical research fellow in the Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, highlighted that the new symptoms are inflammatory. “You have an immune system that is constantly activated because of damage being done, either as a result of the disease or as a cause of the disease. That essentially keeps the immune system constantly working, there’s the exhaustion of the immune system, which then becomes maladaptive or dysregulated. And that contributes to a response that lasts longer, that may be more severe,” she explained.

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What is its impact on the future?

Strain believes that one among the BA.4 and BA.5 variants is causing rapid respiratory illness including COVID pneumonia. According to him, from an evolutionary point of view, the disease has become more transmissible due to its jump into the airways. This results in spreading it sooner in the body. He suggests that even just breathing and talking can lead to its transmission.

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