Two Covid symptoms you should take ‘really seriously’ as new variants reported in the UK

Omicron sub-variant discussed by infectious disease expert

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The emergence of new Covid variants is a stark reminder that the UK is still living through the pandemic. The Omicron variant continues to mutate and there are two new sub-lineages reported in the UK. In his latest YouTube video, Professor Tim Spector, who heads up the ZOE Covid Study app, provided the latest on BA.4 and BA.5 – two new subvariants of Omicron.

According to the professor, the UK is not yet seeing “worrying levels” of the variants.

So far, there have been 1,300 cases of BA.4 reported in England and one case in Northern Ireland, he said,

“But it’s only a small proportion of current levels. BA.2 accounts for the vast majority of cases reported.”

BA.2 was the first subvariant of Omicron to supersede its predecessor.

BA.4 and BA.5 may not present an immediate concern but “we are keeping an eye on this because South Africa – where Omicron was first picked up – is seeing BA.4 and BA.5 increasing quite fast”, warned Prof Spector.

Meanwhile, the professor said loss of smell and tinnitus – also known as ear ringing – are symptoms to take “really seriously”, although the former was more associated with previous strains.

“It suggests another part of the body is being affected, something internal, more close to the brain.”

The warning comes after Prof Spector and his team conducted a survey to assess the prevalence of tinnitus in people infected with Covid.

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Despite being “something we haven’t heard much about. It turns out that 19 percent or one in five of you did have ear problems because of Covid”, he said.

According to the ZOE lead, of the 14,500 people who took part in the survey, 5,000 tested positive for Covid and ear ringing.

Participants said the symptom “comes and goes and can be mild to moderate for weeks or months”.

The professor admitted he did get it but it “disappeared quickly in me”.

According to Prof Spector, a lot of people suffer from tinnitus and found it got worse after being infected with Covid.

He added that he has heard anecdotal reports from colleagues of an increase in referrals of tinnitus following Covid.

Tinnitus – how to spot it

Tinnitus can sound like:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Whooshing
  • Humming
  • Hissing
  • Throbbing
  • Music or singing.

“You may hear these sounds in one or both ears, or in your head. They may come and go, or you might hear them all the time,” says the NHS.

According to the health body, you should see a GP if you have tinnitus regularly or constantly.

You should also see a GP if:

  • Your tinnitus is getting worse
  • Your tinnitus is bothering you – for example, it’s affecting your sleep or concentration, or is making you feel anxious and depressed
  • You have tinnitus that beats in time with your pulse.

The NHS adds: “If the cause of your tinnitus is unknown or cannot be treated, your GP or specialist may refer you for a type of talking therapy.”

This could be:

  • Tinnitus counselling – to help you learn about your tinnitus and find ways of coping with it
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – to change the way you think about your tinnitus and reduce anxiety
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy – using sound therapy to retrain your brain to tune out and be less aware of the tinnitus.

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