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Googling for Gut Symptoms Predicts Covid Hot Spots, Study Finds

By Bloomberg

September 14, 2020

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A study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) demonstrated a novel early warning system for Covid-19 hot spots: using online searches on gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms to forecast a spike in coronavirus cases weeks in advance.

MGH scientists compared search interest in loss of taste and appetite, and diarrhea, with documented incidence of Covid-19 in 15 U.S. states, from Jan. 20 to April 20.

Using the Google Trends online tool, they learned that the volume of such searches had the strongest correlation with cases in New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, and Illinois—states with high disease burden—three to four weeks later.

MGH's Kyle Staller said, "Our data underscore the importance of GI symptoms as a potential harbinger of Covid-19 infection and suggests that Google Trends may be a valuable tool for prediction of pandemics with GI manifestations."

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