New study finds digestive problems are ‘prominent symptom’ in coronavirus before respiratory problems emerge

As the world wraps its head around the coronavirus pandemic, most of the discussion about the novel version of the virus, dubbed COVID, has focused on patients with breathing problems.

But a new study from the disease’s epicenter in the central China city of Wuhan finds that digestive symptoms are common as the “chief complaint” in nearly half of confirmed cases.

The study was published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology and was prepared by investigators from the Wuhan Medical Treatment Expert Group for COVID-19 and published today.

“Most patients with COVID-19 present with typical respiratory symptoms and signs,” read a release that accompanied the report. “However, early experience with the outbreak in Wuhan, China revealed that many patients experienced digestive symptoms as their chief complaint.

The report says that doctors and nurses should be mindful of the fact that digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea, mean that the “index of suspicion may need to be raised earlier” instead of “waiting for respiratory symptoms to emerge.”

That’s because the study found that patients with digestive issues before respiratory problems have a higher risk of mortality compared to those without digestive symptoms,

“This may lead to earlier diagnosis of COVID-19, which can lead to earlier treatment and more expeditious quarantine to minimize transmission from people who otherwise remain undiagnosed,” said Dr. Brennan M.R. Spiegel, Editor-in-Chief of The American Journal of Gastroenterology. “If clinicians solely monitor for respiratory symptoms to establish case definitions for COVID-19, they may miss cases initially presenting with extra-pulmonary symptoms, or the disease may not be diagnosed later until respiratory symptoms emerge.”

You can read the study here.

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