Covid: diarrhea and stomach aches, the symptoms of the BQ.1.1 variant raise fears of confusion with gastroenteritis

With the gastroenteritis season approaching, the symptoms of the BQ.1.1 variant can make it difficult to diagnose and monitor the epidemic, some experts say.

With just under 95,000 cases recorded this Tuesday, October 11 in France, the Covid epidemic is reviving even though the season for colds, flu and gastrointestinal illnesses has not yet started. And it is precisely the mixture of several epidemics which questions some experts. In the line of sight the sub-line BQ.1.1a cousin of Omicron and of the BA.5 variant, whose symptoms could be mistaken for those of gastroenteritis.

Thus, as L’Express reports, several Covid-positive patients have presented digestive disorders in recent days, in addition to fever and fatigue as a symptom.

“In one afternoon, I had three patients who complained of stomach aches before realizing that they were positive for Covid”, reports to our colleagues Jérôme Marty, president of the union of the French Union. for a free medicine (Ufml) general practitioner in Haute Garonne.

New mutation

Diarrhea, vomiting, stomach aches, digestive disorders… Behind these new symptoms of this variant of Omicron, hide the traditional mutations of the virus. As the Hérault virologist and lecturer at the University of MontpellierYannick Simonin, “this new variant could attack stomach tissue. This is due to the modification of the structure of the virus”. But the researcher delays, if the first signs tend towards this conclusion, “we are only at the beginning of the analyzes, it will be necessary to be attentive in the coming weeks to the studies on the topic.”

This variant, carrying three new mutations, could thus be widely confused with gastroenteritis. Because according to the Montpellier researcher, symptoms such as loss of taste, smell or extreme fatigue could quickly become secondary in BQ.1.1 and give way to stomach aches as the “main” symptom.

Vaccination can change symptoms

Edward Tuallion, professor of virology at Montpellier University Hospital, explains that BA.5 has had time to mutate. “It has been there for a while and like any virus that settles over the long term, we are witnessing the multiplication of mutations, the latest to date: BQ 1.1”.

And he also put forward a change in the symptoms. “Vaccination can change symptoms of the virus. As people have developed specific antibodies, they may in the event of new contamination show no, or few, symptoms such as fever.

In other words, vaccination inhibits in a way the “strong” symptoms of the Covid to leave room only for “secondary” symptoms, which are not new for all that.

The risk of not getting tested

If they do not worry Yannick Simonin unduly, it is above all the timing of the appearance of this variant and the arrival of winter which is more problematic. Indeed, the circulation of the virus is likely to increase in the coming weeks and infected people may not worry about these “seasonal” symptoms. Add to that fewer and fewer screenings: the spread of the virus is likely to explode without the appropriate barrier gestures.

Édouard Tuallion suggests, if these new symptoms are indeed confirmed, that it would then be necessary to generalize the performance of a diagnostic test as soon as they appear this winter.

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