Covid-19 can cause a wide variety of symptoms, but a new analysis of records by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that most patients seemed to share at least one of three symptoms: fever, cough or shortness of breath.
The analysis, published Thursday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, covered 164 people with lab confirmed cases of Covid-19. The patients all had symptoms, and all were sick between January 14 and April 4.
Since Covid-19 was a new disease and since information about symptoms was limited, especially among patients that hadn’t been hospitalized, the CDC sent a further survey to patients identified by local health leaders. The patients were asked to report on a wide variety of symptoms and also asked to report on any additional symptoms that were not widely recognized.
Among these patients, nearly all – 96% – had had either a fever, cough, or shortness of breath and about 45% experienced all three.
Cough was the most common symptom: 84% of surveyed patients said they had a cough, the team of CDC and state health officials found. Fever was the next most common symptom, with 80% of patients reporting they had a fever. Shortness of breath was more commonly associated with people who were hospitalized.
Patients also experienced a wide variety of other symptoms including muscle pain, chills, fatigue and headache. At least one stomach issue, most commonly diarrhea, was each reported by half of the patients. Some patients also reported GI symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
A higher percentage of people who did not have to go to the hospital lost their sense of taste or smell.
These results are not generalizable, since testing was restricted to certain patients during this time period and hospitalized patients are likely overrepresented in the sample of people surveyed, but the data does give doctors a better sense of who might need to be tested or even isolated to slow the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.