The COVID-19 virus has evolved since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, withseveral virus strains gaining significant attention. Notably,Delta and Omicron emerged as the most dominant and highly transmissible variants.
COVID continues to evolve, and despite no longer being considered a pandemic, new strains and an increase in cases have raised concern among experts. This has led to many questions including: Have COVID symptoms changed since 2020? What new COVID-19 symptoms should you be aware of in 2023?
The short answer is yes, COVID symptoms in 2023 have evolved. A recent study conducted in the UK shed some light on this issue.
In today’s post, we’ll share everything you need to know, including:
- The new symptoms of COVID in 2023
- COVID’s incubation period
- COVID’s progression in 2023
- Why COVID symptoms have changed
- An overview of Long COVID
- When you should seek immediate medical attention
- How to prevent the spread of the new variants of COVID-19
Without further ado, let’s begin
What Are the New Symptoms of COVID in 2023?
At the beginning of the pandemic, the most common COVID symptoms were:
- Continuous cough
- Loss of smell or taste
These symptoms were just the beginning, as many more were added to the list. However, these three were either present in most COVID cases or were exclusive to the virus.
In late 2022, a UK study, conducted with data from the Zoe Covid-19 app, revealed an interesting change in how COVID-19 infections manifest.
On the Zoe COVID-19 app, thousands of individuals with confirmed COVID cases reported their symptoms. King’s College London analyzed these data with the support of the NHS and discovered that the loss of smell or taste is no longer as common in COVID cases.
However, other symptoms, less common initially, became more frequent as the virus mutated. These included:
- Vocal hoarseness
- Muscle aches
According to the Zoe Health Study, the 10 most common COVID symptoms in 2023 are:
- Throat soreness
- Runny nose
- Nose blockage
- Dry cough
- Cough with phlegm
- Hoarse voice
- Muscle ache
- Altered sense of smell
Current data indicates that symptoms are less severe in vaccinated individuals. However, new variants can sometimes be more contagious and may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.
What’s COVID Incubation Period in 2023?
As reported by the CDC, COVID’s incubation period (the average time between infection and the onset of initial symptoms) is approximately 5-8 days. However, for the dominant Omicron variants, there’s a notably shorter average incubation period of just three days.
It’s important to note that infected people can be contagious even before they show symptoms, potentially unknowingly transmitting the disease to others. The highest risk of infection occurs one day before the first signs of symptoms.
How Does COVID Develop in 2023?
The progression of COVID-19 can vary significantly from person to person. There is no standardized or “typical” course of the illness.
While some individuals experience mild or even asymptomatic cases, others suffer from severe symptoms that require intensive medical care. The latter scenario is particularly common among those who remain unvaccinated.
COVID-19 affects both men and women at roughly the same rate. However, men are more prone to experiencing a severe course of the disease and, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute, are twice as likely as women to succumb to it.
Why Have COVID-19 Symptoms Changed?
COVID-19 has undergone numerous changes since its emergence almost three years ago in Wuhan. Omicron, in particular, has caused a significant increase in infections worldwide. Additionally, new subvariants of Omicron emerged over time.
As of 2023, the most relevant ones were EG.5, FL.1.5.1, and XBB.1.5, which have become dominant. In contrast, BA.2.8.6, while less prevalent, has garnered attention due to its numerous spike protein mutations, raising concerns within the scientific community.
The main reason for these changes is the continuous mutation of the virus. Although SARS-CoV-2 mutates at a slower pace compared to other viruses like Influenza, which mutates four times faster, it still undergoes mutations that alter symptoms, according to experts.
Today’s symptoms differ from those seen in 2020 when loss of smell or fever were prevalent. These days, people infected with the virus experience symptoms similar to those of a cold or the flu.
Experts suggest that Omicron’s symptoms closely resemble those of a cold because it primarily affects the cells in the upper respiratory tract, unlike previous variants that targeted lung cells
Should You Worry? What About Long COVID?
COVID’s new symptoms make it difficult to differentiate it from other respiratory viral illnesses. Despite this, you should continue to take precautions. Identifying the new symptoms is key to keeping yourself and everyone around you safe. And you can only find out if you are infected by getting tested.
Moreover, experts are still uncertain about the long-term effects of COVID. Research suggests that 2% to 20% of individuals who contract the virus may experience prolonged symptoms, also known as “Long COVID.” In March, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that 1.9 million people in the UK, equivalent to 2.9% of the population, continued to experience symptoms more than four weeks after their initial infection.
Diagnosing long COVID is not straightforward, as it lacks a simple test. Yet, people affected by Long COVID report a diverse array of symptoms, including:
- Severe fatigue
- Respiratory issues
- Muscle pains
- Neurologic symptoms (e.g. difficulties with memory and concentration, often described as “brain fog”)
- Heart complications
- Impaired taste and smell
Some individuals have even developed Long COVID despite experiencing only mild initial infections.
If you want to learn more about Long COVID, you can check out our guide.
When Should You Seek Immediate Medical Attention?
According to the CDC, you should seek immediate medical care if you experience:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Persistent chest pain or pressure
- New or sudden confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Skin, lips, or nail beds appearing pale, gray, or bluish, depending on your skin tone
Please note that this list does not encompass all possible symptoms. For any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you, it is advisable to contact your healthcare provider promptly.
Today we took a look at the new COVID-19 symptoms. Some things have changed. However, taking care of yourself remains the same as in 2020. Remember to:
- Wear a face mask in crowded places
- Wash your hands regularly
- Isolate yourself and get tested if you start experiencing symptoms
While the worst of COVID is behind us, looking out for one another is crucial to preventing the emergence of new, dangerous COVID strains.
Do you suspect you may have COVID? No matter where you are, or what type of test you need, find testing locations near you with our global directory.