Peak of ailments during the holidaysa new Covid variant has spread and is still circulating with a certain contagion speed: but what are the symptoms? And how to distinguish it from a normal flu?
What we know about the new Covid variant
The new Covid variant identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) just before Christmas has been classified as JN.1, after spreading rapidly across the Americas, Western Pacific and European regions. This is a new strain that it continued to spread during the holidaysespecially following the increase in travel and convivial occasions that have brought more people together these days.
According to what experts say, it doesn’t appear to be dangerous anymore of other strains of virus in circulation, however the contagion appears to be much faster. The JN.1 variant is closely related to another variant called BA.2.86, or Pirola: Both were previously tracked but differ in a single change in the virus’ spike protein.
It is transmitted quickly therefore, but fortunately it does not appear to cause more severe disease than previous variants. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “The continued growth of JN.1 suggests that it is more transmissible or more effective at evading our immune system. However, there is currently no evidence that JN.1 presents a greater risk to public health than other variants currently circulating.”
However, the WHO has included the JN.1 variant among the Covid strains “of interest”because it could cause an increase in Coronavirus cases in conjunction with the increase in other viral and bacterial infections, especially in countries entering the winter season.
Symptoms of the Covid JN1 variant
At the moment the Covid JN1 variant spread at Christmas it does not appear to present symptoms different from other Coronavirus infections. According to the US CDC: “At this time, there is nothing to say that the JN.1 infection is different from previous COVID variants in terms of disease severity or symptoms.”
THE symptoms of JN.1 therefore appear to be similar to those caused by other strains, which include:
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
- Fever or chills
- Loss of sense of taste or smell.
Furthermore, according to experts, the type and the severity of symptoms that a person manifests usually depends more on his state of health and his basic immune system, not so much on the variant that caused the infection.
How to distinguish the new Covid variant from the flu
Currently, diagnostic tests for COVID-19, including rapid antigen tests and PCR tests, are effective in detecting the JN.1 variant, as well as other variants. It is not possible to distinguish a priori and based on symptoms when it comes to flu and when to Coronavirus, because they are often identical (with the exception in some cases of the loss of taste and smell which still seems to distinguish cases of Covid positivity). I am specific tests necessary to identify the disease and confirm the diagnosis. When in doubt, therefore, undergoing a swab remains the most effective way to understand whether the discomfort is a consequence of a classic seasonal flu or not.
Testing is an important tool to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, especially during the holidays or before traveling.
Since, as we have said, the symptoms of Covid are often indistinguishable from those caused by other winter viruses such as (RSV), influenza and rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, experts urge anyone who becomes ill or is exposed to the infection to undergo the test, in particular: people at risk of complications, such as those over the age of 65, the immunocompromised and those with pre-existing conditions.
In this regard, it is important to remember that, even if the flu and Covid are both contagious respiratory diseases, both are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) first identified in 2019. Influenza is caused by infection with an influenza virus (flu virus). Furthermore, from what we know, COVID-19 spreads more easily than the flu, can cause more serious illness in some people and presents the big problem of asymptomatic people (exposing them to a risk of contagion for longer periods of time).
Covid and flu: common symptoms
Both Covid and the flu can present varying degrees of symptoms, ranging from the absence of symptoms (asymptomatic) to the manifestation of more serious ones. Symptoms common to both Covid and flu are:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches or muscle aches
- Diarrhea (more common in children with flu, but can occur at any age with COVID-19).
Consulting a doctor and carrying out a specific test that detects both the flu and COVID-19 is what all experts suggest, as it allows the specific virus to be diagnosed and treated more quickly.
Tests can also reveal if someone has both the flu and COVID-19 at the same timealthough this is rare it is still a dangerous condition and potentially one to monitor.
Covid and flu: the main differences
The main differences between Covid and influenza were recently outlined in an updated report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
First of all, according to experts, sand a person who has Covid may take longer to understand itor, because from the moment of infection the symptoms usually appear later than they do with the flu. In Covid cases, a person can generally experience symptoms from two to five days and up to 14 days after infection. With the flu or a banal seasonal ailment, however, the first symptoms make themselves felt after just a few days.
Furthermore, a person could be positive for Covid contagious for a longer period than someone who has the flu. People infected with the influenza virus are potentially most contagious during the first 3-4 days of illness. Covid cases, on the other hand, can begin to spread the virus 2-3 days before the onset of symptoms, but infectivity reaches its peak one day before the onset of symptoms. This means that a person can infect others even before being a potential “spreader”.
When contagion is most likely
With the increase in travel in December, especially towards the end of the year, There are obviously places where you are more likely to be infected. This applies to the new Christmas Covid variant but also to any other virus in reality.
Trivially, take a plane, travel by public transport, go to crowded places, These are all actions that potentially expose you to the risk of contagion. For this reason, those at risk should avoid them or resort to using a mask whenever occasions like these arise.
Especially now, as we approach the end of the month – and the end of the year – and are seeing the number of Covid cases and “unseasonal” respiratory infections in general rise again.
And because people are less likely now to get a Covid test as they were during the pandemic, these numbers may not accurately reflect actual case numbers. So the number of positive people could be greater than we know about. In essence, meeting them could be much more likely than we think.
Although the virus that causes COVID-19 and influenza viruses are thought to spread in similar ways, in fact, coronaviruses are generally more contagious than influenza viruses.