Months of mask-wearing and social distancing have triggered a mass outbreak of what sufferers say is “the worst cold ever”, experts are warning.
Latest data from the UK Health Security Agency show that calls to the NHS 111 phone service about cases of cold and flu are above usual levels and increasing rapidly.
And the number of people going to the GP “seeking help with lower and upper respiratory tract infections” rose to 3.1 per 100,000 in the week ending 3 October, compared with 2.1 in the same period last year, The Times reported.
Social media is also “full of people complaining of being struck down by a particularly brutal lurgy”, said the i news site.
One Twitter user complained that their “throat feels like it’s lined with chainsaws”, while another tweeted that his immune system was “getting its first visible workout in two years”.
Although many of the reported symptoms are similar to Covid-19, “most people complaining of the cold have said they tested negative for the virus”, according to The Independent.
But the pandemic is “partly to blame for why people are getting so ill”, said i news. For the past 18 months, “our immune systems have essentially been coddled” as a result of social distancing measures.
Scientists have shot down talk of a “super cold” as “unlikely”, arguing that lack of immunity is why people are being hit especially hard by the lurgy currently doing the rounds.
Professor Neil Mabbott, an immunopathology expert from the University of Edinburgh, told The Times that “our immune systems have had limited exposure to colds over the past 18 months so … will be less effective against colds”.
As with Covid, hand washing and mask wearing can “keep germs at bay”, said Conall Watson, a consultant epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency. GPs are also advising patients with cold-like symptoms to stay home to help limit the spread.
But anyone with a cough, temperature or loss of taste and smell is being urged “not to self-diagnose but to seek a coronavirus test”, said the newspaper.