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Searches for intestinal symptoms Rose weeks before outbreaks


Searches for gastrointestinal symptoms, including loss of taste and diarrhea, appear to be linked to coronavirus outbreaks, according to research at a Massachusetts hospital. Massachusetts General researchers say data from 15 states between January 20 and April 20 revealed that spikes in cases followed increased searches for symptoms in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Bloomberg reports. The researchers, whose study is published in the journal Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology, they say the local outbreaks occurred three to four weeks after the searches. The same approach helped track pandemic influenza trends a decade ago, the researchers say.

“Our data underscores the importance of gastrointestinal symptoms as potential harbingers of COVID-1

9 infections,” wrote study co-author Dr. Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist. He tells Yahoo that the study was inspired by similar research from the team on irritable bowel syndrome. “The data really showed that Google Trends seemed to be able to somehow predict spikes in high-incidence areas,” he says. Staller says that while technology isn’t a foolproof way to predict outbreaks, “this could be an extra help for public health officials.” He says people who develop sudden gastroenterological symptoms should pay attention. “It could be a manifestation of COVID-19, which we’ve learned is really a multisystem disease,” he says. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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