(NY DAILY NEWS) – An upset stomach could be an early indicator of the coronavirus.
Nearly half of the patients hospitalized in Wuhan and the wider Chinese province of Hubei, where the fast-spreading sickness was initially discovered, suffered from digestive issues, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Researchers analyzed data from 204 people diagnosed with COVID-19 who were admitted to three different hospitals in the region between Jan. 18 and Feb. 28. The average age was 55.
According to the report, 48.5% of those patients said their “chief complaint” was digestive problems, including upset stomach, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
“Clinicians must bear in mind that digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea, may be a presenting feature of COVID-19, and that the index suspicion may need to be raised earlier in these cases rather than waiting for respiratory symptoms to emerge,” wrote investigators with the Wuhan Medical Treatment Expert Group for COVID-19.
Most people diagnosed with the coronavirus have respiratory symptoms, including a cough and difficulty breathing — but 7% of the patients analyzed did not have any such problems at all.
Researchers noted patients with digestive symptoms also typically waited longer to seek treatment than those without them.
“We’re so focused on a cough and fever, but it’s possible there are people with digestive symptoms that are not being tested,” said Dr. Brennan Spiegel, editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
He told NY1 that while the study is only preliminary, it highlights a need to re-evaluate testing criteria so medical officials can move faster to diagnose and quarantine patients.
“People with digestive symptoms in Wuhan presented for care later, on average two days later compared with those who didn’t have digestive symptoms, because they didn’t suspect they had COVID-19.”