'Fever, ache, vomiting...': Researchers predict order of COVID-19 symptoms

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Aug 14, 2020, 07.06 PM(IST)

Coronavirus in Malaysia Photograph:( Reuters )

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Kuhn said that the new information will help doctors determine the steps to take to care for patients and prevent their condition from worsening.  

Scientists have finally decoded the likely order in which coronavirus symptoms appear in a human body. The study will help clinicians rule out other diseases, and help patients seek care promptly or decide sooner to self-isolate.

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According to the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, the COVID-19 patients are likely to first get a fever, followed by cough, muscle ache, nausea or vomiting and diarrhoea. 

Peter Kuhn, who is a professor of medicine and biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California (USC) in the US and study's co-author, said: "This order is especially important to know when we have overlapping cycles of illnesses like the flu that coincide with infections of COVID-19."

Kuhn said that the new information will help doctors determine the steps to take to care for patients and prevent their condition from worsening.  

According to researchers, identifying patients earlier could reduce hospitalisation time as there are better approaches to treatments now for COVID-19 than during the beginning of the pandemic.

The data for the current study has been taken from the rates of symptom incidence of more than 55,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in China, all of which were collected from February 16 to 24 by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The researchers also collected the dataset of nearly 1,100 patients from December 11, 2019, through January 29, 2020, by the China Medical Treatment Expert Group via the National Health Commission of China.

The scientists compared the order of COVID-19 symptoms with influenza. According to the examination, scientists took data from 2,470 cases in North America, Europe and the Southern Hemisphere, which were reported to health authorities from 1994 to 1998.

"The order of the symptoms matter. Knowing that each illness progresses differently means that doctors can identify sooner whether someone likely has COVID-19, or another illness, which can help them make better treatment decisions," said Joseph Larsen, study lead author from USC.

"The first two symptoms of COVID-19, SARS, and MERS are fever and cough. However, the upper GI tract (nausea/vomiting) seems to be affected before the lower GI tract (diarrhea) in COVID-19, which is the opposite from MERS and SARS," the scientists wrote in the study.

According to the research, a very small fraction of patients experienced diarrhoea as an initial symptom.

"This report suggests that diarrhea as an early symptom indicates a more aggressive disease, because each patient in this dataset that initially experienced diarrhea had pneumonia or respiratory failure eventually," the scientists wrote.

"The highest reported symptom is fever, followed by cough or dyspnea, and then finally, a small percent of patients reported diarrhea. This order confirms the most likely paths that we have determined," they noted.

(Inputs from PTI)