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Brits risk playing ‘Covid FLiRT roulette’ this summer as sufferers of new variant report worst symptoms yet

JUST as the summer holiday season picks up, it seems like everyone has Covid again.

And some of those recently reinfected with the bug have found the latest bout to be the most agonising yet.

Those recently reinfected with Covid are finding the latest strain to be the worst yet

There is currently no hard evidence to suggest these new variants – which have been collectively nicknamed FLiRT – are actually any more nasty than their predecessors.

You would assume this round of illness might make us less ill, seeing as most of us have some level of immunity after being vaccinated and catching the disease several times.

But according to Dr Peter Chin-Hong, a UC San Francisco infectious diseases expert, this doesn’t mean this new version of the disease will be any nicer to us.

“The dogma is that every time you get Covid, it’s milder.

But I think we need to keep our minds open to the possibility that some people have worse symptoms,” he told the LA Times.

Each time you get Covid, he said, is “kind of like playing Covid roulette”.

I have never in my life experienced something worse than the Covid diarrhoea, such horror

Reddit user

This is because everyone’s experience of Covid is a bit different, so we never really know how someone’s body might react.

This can make it hard to compare current variants with previous ones.


But anecdotally, people have taken to Reddit to describe the symptoms of what they have suggested is the worst variant yet.

“I’ve had Covid a few times but this is the worst I’ve had it,” one person said. “Previously Covid just felt like the common cold but this strain is wreaking havoc.”

They described a “terrible sinus pressure and headache” as well as “not being able to stand up for too long” without feeling like they were about to “pass out”.

Another person said they were so congested they felt like they were “suffocating”.

“The sinus pressure had me sitting in my bed sobbing because I was so incredibly uncomfortable and couldn’t relax,” they said.

On top of that, they also experienced diarrhoea.

“I have never in my life experienced something worse than the Covid diarrhoea, such horror.”

Meanwhile, another person wrote that their “throat feels like razor blades” and that they feel like they’re “in living misery.”


Experts say the virus has mutated to make it better at evading immunity[/caption]

There are a number of reasons why a second, third, fourth or fifth Covid illness might feel worse than the first. 

Some health experts have suggested that the new FLiRT might be able to evade immunity, which is why people who have been vaccinated are still getting so ill.

“The FLiRT variant has specific changes in its spike protein that might make it spread more easily and dodge immunity from past infections or vaccines,” says Dr Mariyam Malik, an NHS and private GP at Pall Mall Medical.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that for many people there has been a relatively long gap since their last Covid vaccine.

The vaccine programme has been scaled back since the initial rollouts early in the pandemic.

Now, only certain people are entitled to jabs under seasonal booster programmes.

And without staying up-to-date on Covid jabs, the immune system is going to find it harder and take longer to fight off current variants Dr Peter said.

“It’s evolved so much, and the body is, like, ‘O-M-G, what is this thing that I’m seeing?’” he added.


At the same time, the NHS has warned of a rise in hospital admissions for Covid, amid signs of a new summer wave.

According to the latest figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), hospital admissions are at levels last seen towards the end of the winter, although still significantly below the peak seen in January.

Jamie Lopez Bernal, consultant epidemiologist for immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said: “We are seeing an increase in Covid-19 across all indicators, including hospitalisations.”

With mass testing having ended it is difficult to keep track of infection levels, and hospital admissions tend to be a good indicator.

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the Norwich School of Medicine, said the rate of infection may already be slowing. “Certainly it does look like we have seen a wave of infection.

“It may have peaked in the last week but that may be wishful thinking on my part, though it does look like the rate of increase is beginning to decline,” he told The Times.

When your cold might really be Covid

So you know how to tell the difference between a common sniffle and Covid-19? Here is how to tell the difference.

Is it a summer cold?

Though we usually associate colds with winter, it’s possible to get them at any time of the year, including the summer.

The main symptoms include:

  • A blocked or runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • A sore throat
  • A hoarse voice
  • A cough
  • Feeling tired and unwell

According to the NHS, you may also suffer from:

  • A high temperature
  • Aching muscles
  • A loss of taste and smell
  • A feeling of pressure in your ears and face

A cold will usually only last for about one or two weeks – so if your sneezing persists for longer than that, you probably have hay fever.

Seasonal allergies don’t usually cause fever, but you might get one with a cold.

Meanwhile, allergies most often won’t cause a cough and sore throat like a cold would.

Is it Covid?

Health chiefs have warned that a rise in Covid cases could be driven by waning immunity built from vaccines and prior infections, as well the emergence of new strains dubbed the FLiRT variants.

The most common Covid symptoms include:

  1. Runny nose (31.1 per cent)
  2. Cough (22.9 per cent)
  3. Headache (20.1 per cent)
  4. Weakness or tiredness (19.6 per cent)
  5. Muscle ache (15.8 per cent)
  6. Sore throat (13.2 per cent)
  7. Trouble sleeping (10.8 per cent)
  8. Worry or anxiety (10.5 per cent)

The most common symptom of the JN.1 variant was a runny nose, with 31 per cent of patients reporting the symptom, an ONS report said.

But loss of taste and smell – once a hallmark sign of the bug – is only reported by two to three per cent of infected Brits, according to the winter Covid report from the Office For National Statistics (ONS) in the UK. 

Fever, another typical symptom of older variants, was only experienced by two per cent of people.

ONS scientists suggest that anxiety can also be a sign that someone has the bug, as 10 per cent of Brits with Covid reported anxiety, excess worrying or trouble sleeping since early November.

Meanwhile, 23 per cent of people reported experiencing a cough, and 20 per cent a headache.

Nearly 20 per cent of people with the bug reported weakness and fatigue, 16 per cent reported experiencing muscle aches, and 13 per cent had a sore throat.

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