Which COVID-19 Symptoms Appear 1st? New Study Sheds Light on Early Signs of Coronavirus

Blood tests in a lab.
Getty Images

Scientists have discovered which COVID-19 symptoms are likely to appear first if someone comes down with the virus. The earliest sign of the virus is usually a fever, followed by a cough and muscle pain, and then nausea or vomiting and diarrhea, according to a study conducted by the University of Southern California and published in the Frontiers in Public Health journal Thursday.

The new information brings hope that patients and medical professionals will now be able to identify the virus more quickly.

“This order is especially important to know when we have overlapping cycles of illnesses like the flu that coincide with infections of COVID-19,” Peter Kuhn, a professor of biological sciences and medicine who worked on the study, said in a statement. “Doctors can determine what steps to take to care for the patient, and they may prevent the patient’s condition from worsening.”

Specifically, COVID-19 has similar symptoms to the respiratory illnesses MERS and SARS, but the timing of when gastrointestinal issues appear make it easier to differentiate between the viruses, according to the study.

“The upper GI tract (i.e., nausea/vomiting) seems to be affected before the lower GI tract (i.e., diarrhea) in COVID-19, which is the opposite from MERS and SARS,” the scientists wrote in the study.

The USC researchers analyzed data collected by the WHO in China between Feb. 16 and 24 and studied more than 55,000 coronavirus cases along with an additional 1,100 cases gathered from Dec. 11 to Jan. 29 by the China Medical Treatment Expert Group via the National Health Commission of China.


Teen's Grim Discovery With GoPro Camera Solves Missing Person's Case From 1992

Sons Discovered Video Diary of Mom's Weekslong Battle With COVID-19 Right Before She Died

COVID-19 Recovery Is Taking Much Longer Than 2 Weeks for Some, Leaving Them Worried for the Future