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expert comments in response to journalists’ questions on reports of lots of colds circulating in the UK at the moment

A few journalists have asked us about the ‘bad colds’ currently circulating in the UK, so here are some comments in case useful.


Prof Neil Mabbott, Personal Chair in Immunopathology, The Roslin Institute & Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, said:

“This highlights the power of the lockdown, mask wearing, social distancing and sanitation measures introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Not only was this very effective in reducing transmission of the coronavirus within the community, but at the same time it had the additional benefit of reducing the spread of colds and other common transmissible diseases.  As these measures are eased and people start mixing more indoors and travelling on public transport etc. we can expect to see a significant rise in colds and other respiratory diseases.  It is unlikely we are seeing the circulation of a “super cold”.  Rather our immune systems have had limited exposure to colds over the past 18 months, so our immunity to these diseases will have waned during this period and will be less effective against colds than would be expected normally.  Some of the symptoms between colds and COVID-19 can be very similar during the early stages.  But of course, if people develop a fever, a cough or any of the other COVID-19 symptoms such as loss of taste or smell it is important that they isolate and have a COVID-19 test.  For most people with a cold, plenty of fluids and paracetamol should help ease the symptoms.  Unlike COVID-19 a cold is usually relatively harmless for most people.  So self-isolating with a cold shouldn’t be necessary, but increased hygiene will help to limit spread.”


Prof Alex Richter, Professor of Clinical Immunology, University of Birmingham, said:

“It is impossible to tell the difference between a cold and COVID-19 clinically.  They present so similarly that only PCR testing can differentiate between the two. Lateral flow testing can help with screening, but if someone has symptoms then they should go for a PCR swab test.”


Prof Alan McNally, is Professor of Microbial Evolutionary Genomics at the University of Birmingham, and was Infectious Disease lead at the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab, said: 

“If you have any symptoms of respiratory infection you should stay at home to prevent transmission and get a test done for COVID-19 to rule in or out. Trying to self-diagnose is a sure fire way to send COVID-19 case rates soaring again.”



All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:



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