‘Two thirds of coronavirus cases in Britain are going undiagnosed’
Pictured: Professor Tim Spector who has been working with the Department of Health and Social care on a tracking app, which has been sending 10,000 users Covid-19 tests each week within days of them showing symptoms
The government’s refusal to recognise symptoms like a loss of taste or smell has led to two thirds of cases going undiagnosed, a leading epidemiologist has claimed.
Tim Spector, professor at King’s College London, said the failure to acknowledge the symptoms has led to statisticians collecting data which is ‘nonsense’.
The Government has listed a fever temperature and a persistent cough as primary symptoms of the killer virus.
But there is growing evidence that a loss of taste and smell are tell-tale signs of infection.
Other nations, like the US, have revised their guidelines to include the symptom and help doctors spot patients.
Officially, just 212,000 Britons have been diagnosed with confirmed coronavirus – but millions of cases have been missed because of a lack of mass testing.
Professor Spector told The Times: ‘Only people with those two symptoms got tested and ended up on the statistics.
‘All this governmental data on confirmed cases and how many people have recovered, it’s all nonsense.
Fever – a high temperature and body aches – is the most common symptom of the coronavirus and is experienced by almost nine out of 10 people who catch it, according to the World Health Organization
He added: ‘The reason that we got a bit stuck in this country is we took the data from China and just instantly said, “OK, the disease only has two symptoms: it’s fever or it’s persistent cough.” That meant we were missing about 60 per cent of cases.’
Professor Spector has been working with the Department of Health and Social care on a tracking app, which has been sending 10,000 users Covid-19 tests each week within days of them showing symptoms.
The app asks the user questions each day about how they feel. As part of the government’s response to the virus, they have widely circulated the most-telling symptoms of coronavirus as a dry cough and high temperature.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CORONAVIRUS?
Like other coronaviruses, including those that cause the common cold and that triggered SARS, COVID-19 is a respiratory illness.
- The most common symptoms are:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
Although having a runny nose doesn’t rule out coronavirus, it doesn’t thus far appear to be a primary symptom.
Most people only become mildly ill, but the infection can turn serious and even deadly, especially for those who are older or have underlying health conditions.
In these cases, patients develop pneumonia, which can cause:
- Potentially with yellow, green or bloody mucus
- Fever, sweating and shaking chills
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid or shallow breathing
- Pain when breathing, especially when breathing deeply or coughing
- Low appetite, energy and fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting (more common in children)
- Confusion (more common in elderly people)
- Some patients have also reported diarrhea and kidney failure has occasionally been a complication.
Avoid people with these symptoms. If you develop them, call your health care provider before going to the hospital or doctor, so they and you can prepare to minimize possible exposure if they suspect you have coronavirus.
Professor Spector has collected data from three million Britons on the app and said the loss of smell and taste has been a recurring symptom.
Other findings from the symptom-tracker data suggest the virus could have arrived on British shores as early as January, and as many as one in 10 people may have been infected.
They also estimate that two million people were infected with the respiratory illness at the start of January, dropping to 300,000 at the start of May.
Professor Spector added that those infected can be categorised into groups of people, all displaying different symptoms.
While one group may have a sore throat and muscle pains developing in to gastrointestinal issues, others will start with a cough that worsens with shortness of breath.
One of the main purposes of the study is to identify which patients are at higher risk from the virus which has killed over 30,000 people in Britain already.
Experts have agreed with Professor Spector’s expertise on the virus’s symptoms.
Alan McNally, a microbial genomics professor at the University of Birmingham, added that coronavirus symptoms also include a rash on the patient’s toe and lack of appetite.
It comes after early results of the government’s mass sampling scheme suggested as many as 400,000 people in Britain may currently be infected with coronavirus.
Ministers launched surveillance studies to track the rate of COVID-19 in Britain, with the true size of the outbreak remaining a mystery with millions of cases having been missed because health chiefs controversially decided to abandon widespread testing early on in the outbreak.
Preliminary data from one of the major schemes, which is co-led by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), suggests the life-threatening virus has been detected in between 0.2 and 0.6 of Britons (130,000 to 396,000 people).
It is not clear if these results are from swab tests, which tell if someone is currently infected – or antibody tests, which look for signs of past infection. The sampling study involved both forms of tests to give Number 10 a better snapshot about the size of the crisis
But it is unlikely the results are based on how much of the population has developed antibodies because it would suggest only 400,000 Britons have ever been infected – giving COVID-19 a death rate of around 10 per cent, with leading experts saying the UK’s true death toll is above 40,000.
Leading virologists from across the world estimate the death rate to be below 1 per cent, while other data from other antibody schemes suggest the virus kills around 0.36 per cent of patients, which would mean roughly 12million Brits have had the illness in total. It also suggests that around 2,000 people of the 400,000 currently infected will die – but the virus is still spreading within Britain.
Downing Street’s own scientific advisers have previously said as much as 10 per cent of London (900,000 people) had already been infected.