With a heatwave slamming much of the country, it’s hard to believe fall is right around the corner.
But it will be here sooner than any of us can imagine right now. And it will arrive with all the things we love about the season, like the cool crisp air, warm fuzzy sweaters, and pumpkin spice coffee in tow.
But there’s something else that fall ushers in that’s NOT so welcome. And that, of course, is flu season.
In a good year, you dread getting the flu. Common influenza can leave you flat on your back and miserable for days.
But this year, while we’re still in the grips of a global pandemic, every ache, cough, or fever is liable to send you into panic mode.
The trouble is some of COVID-19’s symptoms can be very similar to other viral illnesses. And not knowing if you’re infected with a run of the mill flu, the common cold, or the far more dangerous novel coronavirus can leave you feeling frightened and unsure what to do.
Overwhelmed docs need to know that answer as quickly as possible too. The ability to rapidly tell the difference between a case of influenza and COVID-19 could be a game-changer. It could allow them to have you isolate to stop the spread and begin vital treatments even before a positive diagnosis comes back.
In some situations, a quicker ID on what bug you’re battling could even mean keeping a case from becoming more dangerous, or even deadly. And the findings of a new study have revealed a secret weapon that could help docs do just that.
THIS could help ID coronavirus faster
University of Southern California researchers have just given us a gift. A tool to help us get a quick idea if an illness is, in fact, the coronavirus or not.
And according to the new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, it all boils down to symptom order.
The scientists figured it out by crunching the numbers from two different datasets… 1,100 confirmed coronavirus cases from December and January and another 55,000 confirmed cases from February.
They then built a “typical case” model out of all the data. This way, they could see the order the symptoms usually show up in.
Next, they compared their findings to the typical order of symptoms in other respiratory illnesses. Specifically, they looked at influenza (the common flu), SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
And they were able to spot a distinct difference in symptom order with the coronavirus. And, of course, knowing that could help docs make better and faster decisions.
Tracking symptom order can help stop spread
Both fever and cough are common symptoms of influenza and coronavirus. But the flu usually starts with cough while the first symptom for the coronavirus is often fever.
(Although we now know a loss of smell may ACTUALLY be the earliest warning sign for MOST cases. If you missed my report on that and other surprising COVID-19 facts earlier today, click here to catch up.)
But the researchers say there’s one thing that really sets coronavirus apart from the other viruses. And that’s the TIMING of the tummy troubles.
With SARS and MERS, diarrhea almost always appears before upper GI complaints like nausea and vomiting. But for coronavirus, it’s the opposite… upper tummy troubles usually show up before lower GI complaints.
The scientists concluded the usual order for coronavirus symptoms to appear is…
- muscle pain
- nausea (and/or vomiting)
Knowing what to look for can help you stay calm as we head into flu season.
But keep in mind that tracking symptom order can’t take the place of testing. At ANY sign of illness, you should isolate and get in touch with your doc to find out what he’d like you to do.