New research has downgraded the most likely order in which COVID-19 symptoms first appear.
The earliest sign of coronavirus is most likely a fever in infected patients, followed by a cough and muscle aches, according to a study by the University of Southern California published in the journal Frontiers in Health Thursday.
People will then experience nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.
The latest findings are a major breakthrough in the study of coronavirus, as patients will now be able to identify and treat the disease more quickly.
“This order is especially important to know when we have overlapping cycles of diseases such as influenza that coincide with COVID-19 infections,” said Peter Kuhn, professor of biological sciences and medicine who worked on the study, in a statement. “Doctors can determine what steps they need to take to care for the patient, and they can prevent the patient’s condition from getting worse.”
Establishing a diagnosis early is essential to stopping the virus before it becomes more serious.
“Given that there are now better approaches to treatments for COVID-19, identifying patients earlier can reduce hospitalization time,” said Joseph Larsen, a doctoral candidate and lead researcher in the study. “The order of the symptoms matters. Knowing that each disease progresses differently means that doctors can more quickly identify if someone is likely to have COVID-19, or any other disease, which may help them make better treatment decisions. “
The initial symptoms of coronavirus are very similar to other respiratory diseases like MERS and SARS, but it is the time of gastrointestinal issues that makes COVID-19 easier to distinguish.
“The upper GI tract (ie, nausea / vomiting) appears to be affected before the lower GI tract (ie diarrhea) in COVID-19, which is the opposite of MERS and SARS,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Larsen, along with faculty advisors Kuhn and James Hicks, conducted the study at the USC Michelson Center for the Convergent Science Institute of Bioscience Convergence in Cancer.
USC researchers analyzed data collected by the World Health Organization in China between February 16 and 24 from more than 55,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. The scientists also took a look at about 1100 cases collected from December 11 to January 29 by the Group of Medical Treatment Experts in China through the China National Health Commission.
They then compared the numbers with data on flu symptoms of 2,470 cases in North America, Europe and the Southern Hemisphere that were reported to health authorities from 1994 to 1998.