Does The Delta Variant Of COVID-19 Have Different Symptoms?

COVID-19 has long been associated with symptoms such as loss of smell and taste, but as the Delta variant spreads across the globe and begins to dominate COVID-19 cases in countries such as the United States and United Kingdom, it may no longer present in the same way. According to data collected as part of the Zoe COVID symptom study, most people who catch the Delta variant exhibit milder symptoms that resemble a bad cold. While the most common COVID-19 symptoms used to include cough and loss of smell and taste, cough has fallen to the fifth most common symptom among people with the Delta variant, and loss of taste and smell no longer ranks among the top ten (per The Guardian). Instead, the most common symptoms now include headache, a sore throat, a runny nose, and sneezing.

This is problematic because many people with the virus may mistakenly believe that they just have a cold, and for that reason, they may continue to go out as usual, exposing others to the virus. According to Tim Spector, epidemiology professor at King's College London, this could be fueling the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom. The fact that the Delta variant is 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant doesn't help, either (per Nature).

While the Delta variant may present as a cold for some people, it can be deadly for others

According to The Guardian, Spector advises people with cold symptoms to quarantine and get tested for COVID-19, because even if the symptoms are mild for you, that won't necessarily be the case for somebody else. According to a Scottish study, hospitalization rates are twice as high among people with the Delta variant, especially among high-risk groups (per The Lancet).

Although vaccines remain effective against hospitalization and death from the Delta variant, not everyone is able to get vaccinated (per Healthline). In addition, viral spread could enable mutations that may eventually circumvent the vaccines altogether. We have already seen some research that suggests the vaccines are becoming less effective at preventing symptomatic disease from the Delta variant compared to other forms of COVID-19 (per New York Times). The last thing we want is a variant that starts cutting into the vaccine's effectiveness against severe illness. For these reasons, it is important for people with symptoms of the Delta variant to get tested, and take steps to avoid spreading their infection to others.