These Symptoms Could Tell Covid-19 Apart From Flu This Winter

Natasha Hinde
·2-min read

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When flu season arrives, it’ll be harder than usual to determine whether or not you’re sick with flu or Covid-19, because the symptoms are very similar.

But there’s a particular order Covid-19 symptoms tend to appear in, say researchers, which could help people tell the virus apart from other illnesses.

Scientists at the University of Southern Carolina (USC) Michelson Centre analysed more than 55,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in China (collected between 16-24 February 2020) and a further dataset of nearly 1,100 cases collected from mid-December 2019 through to January this year.

They compared the order of symptoms from this data set with the order of influenza symptoms, using data from 2,470 flu cases in North America, Europe and the Southern Hemisphere, reported to health authorities from 1994 to 1998.

The likely order Covid-19 symptoms first appear, they found, are: fever, then cough and muscle pain, followed by nausea, and/or vomiting, and diarrhoea.

Gastrointestinal issues, in particular, may set the coronavirus apart from other illnesses like influenza, helping doctors to diagnose it, researchers said. While vomiting and diarrhoea can also be signs of flu, this is more common in children than in adults. The main symptoms of flu in adults are a sudden fever, cough, sore throat, aching body (including headache) and fatigue.

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Knowing the order of Covid-19’s symptoms may help patients seek care promptly or decide sooner than later to self isolate, said scientists at USC. The information could also help doctors rule out other illnesses, or help them plan how to treat patients and perhaps even intervene earlier in the disease.

The study, which...

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