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Symptoms ID'd That Should Trigger COVID-19 Testing

Testing people with any of seven key symptoms in the first three days of illness would detect 96 percent of symptomatic cases

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WEDNESDAY, Feb. 24, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- A grouping of seven symptoms has the highest sensitivity for identifying COVID-19 cases, according to a study published online Feb. 12 in the Journal of Infection.

Michela Antonelli, Ph.D., from the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences at King's College London, and colleagues included data for U.K. and U.S. users of the COVID-19 Symptom Study app who reported new-onset symptoms and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests within seven days of symptom onset. For different symptom combinations, the sensitivity, specificity, and number of RT-PCR tests needed to identify one case (tests per case [TPC]) were calculated.

Overall, 122,305 (1,202 positives) and 3,162 (79 positives) individuals were included in the U.K. and U.S. cohorts, respectively. The researchers found that the COVID-19-specific symptom grouping (cough, dyspnea, fever, and anosmia/ageusia) identified 69 percent of cases within three days of symptom onset, requiring 47 TPC. Fatigue, anosmia/ageusia, fever, cough, diarrhea, headache, and sore throat comprised the grouping with the highest sensitivity, which identified 96 percent of cases, requiring 96 TPC.

"The identification of this combination of symptoms through the COVID Symptom Study app is another prime demonstration of the value of big data analytics and mobile health technology to support the management of this pandemic," a coauthor said in a statement.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry; several authors are employees of Zoe Global Limited, which funded the study and developed the app used in the study.

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