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I'm a Virus Expert and Here's Proof You Have a Delta Infection

Know the top five COVID symptoms right now.

The Delta variant of COVID-19 spread like wildfire this summer, and is now the source of nearly all the new COVID infections in the United States. If you're like many of us, every sneeze or tickle in the back of the throat prompts you to wonder if you've been infected. Read on to find out more about the current symptoms of COVID—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.


Traditional Symptoms Seen Less

woman trying to sense smell of half fresh orange, has symptoms of Covid-19

The ZOE COVID Symptom Study is being conducted by British and American researchers, who have collected 4.7 million datapoints tracking COVID-19 symptoms via an app. "According to this study, the main COVID-19 symptoms have changed over time," says Sri Banerjee, MD, Ph.D., MPH, FACE, faculty member in Walden University's Ph.D. in Public Health program. 

"Traditional COVID-19 symptoms such as anosmia (loss of smell), fever and shortness of breath are now not being seen as frequently. In the ZOE COVID Symptom Study, they are currently ranked much lower on the list of symptoms, at numbers 5, 12 and 29, respectively."

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The Latest Symptoms of Delta Infection

Woman with temperature staying home wrapped in scarf and drinking hot tea.

According to researchers at the COVID Symptom Study, the top five symptoms in recent months include: 

  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Persistent cough 

"Excessive sneezing is also a symptom of the Delta variant," says Banerjee. "This presents complications as we approach the upcoming flu season, since the top five symptoms of COVID-19 currently are also flu symptoms."

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Symptoms Come on Quicker

Sick man sleeps covered with a blanket lying in bed with high fever, resting at living room. He is exhausted and suffering from flu with cup of tea with lemon, medicaments. Influenza season.

"The Delta variant has such a high viral load early in the infection that from the point of exposure we're seeing people have symptoms develop within 24 to 48 hours, as opposed to three to five days, which is what we were seeing last year," Dr. Michael Bush of St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, Montana, told KTVQ on Tuesday. The official list includes: 

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Get tested if you experience these, and keep reading for more.

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Symptoms Depend on Vaccination Status

Woman getting COVID-19 vaccine shot.

The symptoms of a Delta infection seem to be different depending on whether you've been vaccinated, says Karen Jubanyik, MD, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Yale University School of Medicine and author of Beat the Coronavirus. Vaccinated people are more likely to feel like they have a bad cold, while unvaccinated people tend to have more traditional symptoms, including fever, a potentially severe cough, and loss of taste or smell, in addition to headache, sore throat and runny nose.

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Twindemic on the Way?

Sick woman with flu at home

Experts raised concerns this week about a potential "twindemic" or "tridemic" once the traditional flu season starts in October. Last year's flu season was blunted by mandatory closures and widespread face-masking; this year, things are more lax.

Some states such as Minnesota dealt this summer with an outbreak of RSV, or respiratory syntactical virus, on top of COVID-19. "I'm not going to talk about a twindemic. I'm going to talk about a tridemic or a quaddemic," Dr. Gregory Poland, a vaccinologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Monday. "We already have cases of influenza in Minnesota. We've already seen evidence of an RSV epidemic. The pandemic, at least right now, isn't going anywhere. It's going to continue to find susceptibles who are either unvaccinated or whose immunity wanes with time."

RELATED: ​​COVID Symptoms Usually Appear in This Order


How to Stay Safe Out There


Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael