Online searches for ‘gut ailments’ reveal clusters


Maine: A surge in internet searches about gut ailments is helping researchers predict the next COVID-19 hotspots, a study has revealed.

Massachusetts General Hospital found that areas where there was a spike in Google queries relating to diarrhoea and loss of appetite frequently reported a sharp rise in cases of coronavirus three to four weeks later. Other markers included a loss of taste, nausea and abdominal pain.

A link between COVID-19 and gut ailments was first identified in China earlier this year, with about a third of sufferers reporting gastrointestinal rather than respiratory sickness. Other patients complained of suffering from both.

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The link between gut problems and the virus prompted Massachusetts researchers to examine data from the Google Trends tool.

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They examined material from 15 states and tracked the search results against the incidence of the disease four weeks later. They found the data provided a potential COVID-19 early warning system. The correlation was particularly marked in New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts and Illinois – among the worst-hit states at the start of the pandemic.



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