Other major symptoms include fatigue, losing the ability to smell and difficulty in breathing.
The study — published in the online journal PLoS ONE by researchers from five universities — is one of the biggest reviews ever conducted into COVID-19 symptoms. It has combined data from 148 separate studies to identify the common symptoms experienced by more than 24,000 patients from nine countries, including the UK, China and the US.
The researchers acknowledged that there is likely to be a large proportion of people who had the virus but did not display symptoms.
Of the 24,410 cases, the study found:
- 78 per cent had a fever. Although this tended to vary across countries: with 72 percent of fever reported by patients in Singapore and 32 percent in Korea.
- 57 per cent reported a cough. Again, this varied across countries, with 76 percent of patients reporting a cough in the Netherlands compared to 18 percent in Korea.
- 31 per cent said they had suffered fatigue.
- 25 per cent lost the ability to smell.
- 23 per cent reported difficulty breathing.
The researchers believe the variation in the prevalence of symptoms between countries is due, in part, to the way data was collected.
Of those patients who needed hospital treatment, 17 per cent needed non-invasive help with their breathing; 19 percent had to be looked after in an intensive care unit, nine per cent required invasive ventilation and two per cent needed extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, an artificial lung.
Ryckie Wade, a surgeon and Clinical Research Fellow at the Leeds Institute of Medical Research, supervised the research. He said: “This analysis confirms that a cough and fever were the most common symptoms in people who tested positive with COVID-19.”
“This is important because it ensures that people who are symptomatic can be quarantined, so they are not infecting others.
“The study gives confidence to the fact that we have been right in identifying the main symptoms and it can help determine who should get tested.”
The study involved academics from the University of Leeds with colleagues from the University of Sheffield, University of Bristol, Imperial College, London, and the Belgium Cancer Centre. The research was funded by the UK’s National Institute for Health Research and VALCOR, in Belgium.
University of Leeds. “Study confirms ‘classic’ symptoms of COVID-19.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/06/200624100047.htm>.