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Up to 40% of coronavirus cases could be missed, study finds

Credit: Belga

Including headaches and fatigue in the list of common symptoms of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) could help detect up to 40% more cases, according to a UK-based testing study.

The research, published in the Journal of Infection, found that by including these symptoms to the official list and testing patients who develop them, there is a 92% chance that the virus will be detected, compared to a 69% chance when patients display commonly recognised symptoms.

“The key message from this study is that atypical Covid is much more common than people think,” research leader Edde Loeliger told De Volkskrant. “To our surprise, the complaint of fatigue is the most common. By adding that symptom, you add a large number of positives, without it taking a lot of extra testing,” she added.

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In Belgium, fatigue is already recognised as a common indicator of the virus, alongside a cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle pains, a loss of sense of smell and taste, a sore throat and diarrhoea. A headache, however, is not.

The study also found that testing in the case of diarrhoea increases the chance of detecting the virus by 96%.

The scientific research, led by King’s College in London, relied on data gathered from over 120,000 people by the free Zoe Symptom Study app, which played a big role in identifying loss of smell and taste as symptoms of the illness.

Results showed that 75% of the people who tested positive for the virus had reported headaches as a symptom, and up to 80% complained they felt fatigued.

As both these symptoms are common to many other illnesses, people are often less likely to think that they are infected with the virus, and therefore may not get tested.

“There were quite a few respondents who said: ‘I had a headache and couldn’t come out of bed, but I didn’t consider it could be Covid’,” said Loeliger.

Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times