April 13, 2021

Majority of COVID-19 cases show fever as the first symptom

Nine months since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Wuhan, China, much remains unknown about the most globally catastrophic disease since the Spanish Flu. However, a breakthrough new study has shed an all-important fresh light on the symptomology of COVID-19, compared to a range of other similar illnesses. These brand-new insights could be instrumental in stopping the spread of this highly contagious infection until an effective vaccine becomes available.

One of the key issues in tracking and tracing new COVID-19 cases is that the disease often presents similar symptoms to an array of much more common and non-threatening illnesses. Previous research has suggested that a large proportion of those infected with COVID-19 are either asymptomatic or display only mild symptoms. Of course, the problem here is the very real risk of those who are mildly affected by the virus unknowingly spreading it around the population, or passing it on to a more vulnerable individual.

This new study by the University of Southern California combined and compared data from thousands of cases of influenza, SARS, MERS and COVID-19 to effectively establish similarities and differences in symptom presentation order.

Without a doubt, the key finding of this study was that in the vast majority of symptomatic cases, COVID-19 begins with a fever, before progressing to other symptoms like a cough, vomiting or diarrhoea. In fact, the probability of symptomatic COVID-19 beginning with a raised temperature is 0.775 in severe cases, and 0.818 in non-severe cases. Conversely, influenza more often initiates with a cough. This finding could be key in identifying COVID-19 at the earliest possible stage, thus reducing exposure of infected individuals to others.

Crucially, being aware of the most possible progression of coronavirus symptoms could be vital in preventing the spread of the disease in the lead up to the winter months.

Here is an overview of the study’s findings on the likely symptom progression of COVID-19.

coronavirus symptoms progression
coronavirus symptoms progression

This new study only reiterated the value of temperature testing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In the UK, many establishments are already temperature checking staff on arrival. As fever has been identified as the most common first symptom of COVID-19, temperature monitoring may hold the key to identifying individuals who may have been infected, even before any noticeable symptoms appear.

This simple step could allow those with a raised temperature to promptly isolate and get hold of a testing kit – both of which are powerful in preventing further spread of COVID-19. With more and more venues opening each week in the UK, and with increased opportunity for close contact with others, it’s more important than ever to pinpoint those potential cases and execute self-isolation and track and trace measures quickly and efficiently.

With up to an 81.8% chance of fever being the first symptom to show up in COVID-19, widespread and effective temperature checking could well be key in preventing a second wave of this devastating and often difficult to detect disease.