Internet research on gastrointestinal symptoms predicted an increase in Covid-19 cases weeks later,Massachusetts General Hospital discovered, demonstrating a new early warning system for pandemic disease hot spots.Researchers atBoston’s top-ranked hospital compared research interest in loss of taste and appetite and diarrhea with the reported incidence of Covid-19 in 15 US states from Jan.20 to April 20.Alphabet Inc.’s Google Trends online tool, they found that search volume was most strongly correlated with cases in New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts and Illinois – high-burden states – three to three. four weeks later. The research, published in the journalClinical gastroenterology and hepatology have shown that the same approach used to monitor the pandemicflu trends more than a decade ago could be rolled out for coronavirus, the hospital said in areport this month. Patients with Covid-19 often report gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea, sparking interest in conducting the study.
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“Our data underscore the importance of gastrointestinal symptoms as a potential warning sign of Covid-19 infection and suggest that Google Trends may be a valuable tool for predicting pandemics with gastrointestinal manifestations,”Kyle Staller, gastroenterologist and director of the Mass General’s Gastrointestinal Motility Lab, and colleagues wrote in the study.
Scientists are also testing for traces of the coronavirus inwastewater to identify places where Covid-19 is spreading.