The study suggests that GI symptoms helped predict COVID-19 spikes in some states. But experts warn against using search trends to predict the outbreak


Data suggests that Google Trends is predicting an outbreak of COVID-19 in some states, but experts have warned against using it. (Getty Images)

The US has seen more than 6.5 million cases of COVID-19 since February, and researchers are still trying to find ways to address the outbreaks before they begin. Now, a new study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital suggests a new strategy: Keep an eye on gastrointestinal symptoms. People are goggling.

The study, which was published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, An analysis of data from Google trends, along with data from the Harvard-supported website, which gathers research data to measure the search interest associated with specific gastrointestinal symptoms related to COVID-19. Researchers from the study analyzed data on COVID-19 cases from 15 states from April 20 to April 20.

Researchers found that the loss of taste (aka edusia) was discovered around four weeks before the increase in COVID-19 cases in most states, with an increase in loss of appetite and diarrhea, and in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York was particularly notable in New York.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the main symptoms of COVID-19 as well as new loss of taste, smell, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea, as well as more well-known symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath.

A gastroenterologist from Massachusetts General Hospital co-authored the study, Drs. Kyle Staller tells Yahoo Life that the study was inspired by the same research the team did on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). “As we started flowing into the COVID world, we said, ‘It will be interesting to see,” he says. “The data has actually shown that Google Trends appears capable of predicting spikes in areas with high incidence, in some cases.”

An infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Drs. William Scheffner tells Yahoo Life that he is “not completely surprised” that Google Trends was predictive of COVID-19 outbreaks. “Google is also able to track influenza trends,” he explains.

But senior scholars at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Drs. Amesh A. Adalja told Yahoo Life that it can be difficult to find out if the information is relevant and what is not in such a situation. “It’s something that can give you some information, but there are a lot of things that can cause diarrhea and other GI issues,” he says. “You have to be careful of signal and noise.”

So far, Staller states that “we are not there yet” to use such information to correctly predict the outbreak. He says, “There is no substitute for shoes on the ground, there are epidemics and indeed cases of COVIDs.” “But, in a rapidly evolving situation, it can be an added help for public health officials to say that we have one of several indicators when deciding on allocating resources.”

Scheffner agrees. “We are not there yet. But it may well be that as electronic monitoring becomes more accurate and also more real-time, we are getting closer to using it as a tool, ”he says.

Adalja says that this area of ​​research is “getting better because there is a much larger digital footprint.” But, he says, “the question is how sensitive is a marker?”

Finally, Staller urges people to be vigilant if they suddenly develop gastrointestinal symptoms. “Just so you know that this may not be the food you ate.” “This may be an expression of COVID-19, which we learned is actually a multi-system disease.”

Keep this in mind as well, per Stellar: “While it may be just a stomach flu, we are not seeing most of them due to social disturbances.”

for Latest Coronavirus news and updates, Follow along https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, those over 60 and those who are immunocompromised are at greatest risk. If you have any questions, please reference CDC‘Sand Who is it Resource guide.

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