COVID-19 News | Internet search trends for gastro symptoms can predict virus hotspots weeks in advance

Researchers at a Massachusetts hospital found that searches for gastrointestinal symptoms and taste were indicative of a future rise in COVID -19 cases.

Internet search trends on gastrointestinal problems could help predict COVID-19 hotspots as much as four weeks ahead of an actual rise in case numbers, a study has found.

Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital noted that internet searches for diarrhoea and loss of appetite and taste, in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York were indicative of a future rise in COVID -19 cases in those regions, Bloomberg reported.

The study, published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, was conducted over a four-month period from January 20 to April 20 and used Google Trends to track search volumes of COVID-19 symptom-related keywords.

Researchers found that the spike in search items strongly co-related with a spike in cases reported three to four weeks later. The hospital said the hypothesis is supported by similar methods used to track case trends during the influenza pandemic.

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Writing in the study, Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist and the director of Mass General’s gastrointestinal motility laboratory, and colleagues said that Google Trends may be a “valuable tool for prediction of pandemics” and the data “underscores” the importance of geographical symptoms as a “potential harbinger of COVID-19 infections”.

The study was prompted by a majority of patients reporting gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain and diarrhoea, the report said.

Besides internet search trends, researchers are also looking at the presence of the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 in the waste water to identify hotspots.

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First Published on Sep 13, 2020 01:56 pm



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