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Are Digestive Issues a Symptom of COVID-19?

“But what is really significant about this study, is that the patients who reported digestive symptoms sought medical treatment at hospitals later than those without GI symptoms at all,” says Michigan Medicine gastroenterologist William Chey, M.D., who previously served as the editor-in-chief of The American Journal of Gastroenterology. “This could simply be because some individuals might not have suspected they had COVID-19 without any respiratory symptoms.”

The study also found that as the severity of the disease increased, so did the digestive symptoms, and patients devoid of any GI symptoms were more likely to be discharged from the hospital than individuals with diarrhea, nausea or anorexia.

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“These findings are really important because they emphasize the correlation between the GI tract and identifying, as well as diagnosing, COVID-19,” says Chey. “Another report recently came out of Wuhan, in which live virus was found in stool samples of certain patients with GI symptoms. So, it’s really important for people to pay attention to their digestive systems during this pandemic, as it could literally be a matter of life or death.”

Chey goes on to add that because of the recent study from Wuhan regarding the potential transmission of COVID-19 through contact with stool, it’s doubly important for individuals to practice adequate hand hygiene and to avoid touching their face.

“Social distancing and thoroughly washing your hands are so crucial during this pandemic,” says Chey. “When it comes to combatting COVID-19, we all have a part to play. Make sure that you do yours. We are all in this together.”

This research is still early and work is still ongoing.  

Paper cited: Clinical characteristics of COVID-19 patients with digestive symptoms in Hubei, China: a descriptive, cross-sectional, multicenter study,” The American Journal of Gastroenterology.

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