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True! Non-respiratory symptoms such as loss of appetite, abdominal pain, confusion, could also be symptoms of COVID-19

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Claim: a viral WhatsApp message claims that non-respiratory symptoms such as loss of appetite, abdominal pain, diarrhea, confusion, bitter taste, dry mouth, eye problems, giddiness, and even skin changes could also be symptoms of COVID-19.

The claim that non-respiratory symptoms such as loss of appetite, abdominal pain, diarrhea, confusion, bitter taste, dry mouth, eye problems, giddiness, and even skin changes could also be symptoms of COVID-19 is true. Outline symptoms of COVID-19 from the WHO and other new studies support the claim. 

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For some COVID-19 patients, the symptoms started with difficulty in breathing; for others, it was severe coughing while others complained about the loss of smell and taste. Whatever the case may be, the mutations with the COVID-19 virus have transited into a major battle for health officials around the world. While the symptom of COVID-19 is usually linked to coughing and other respiratory symptoms, the transformation in the virus itself seems to breed an enormous need for fresh concern. 

Alarmingly, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan of the World health organization even affirmed some changes with the nature of the virus: 

“From the beginning of the year, we’ve been tracking this virus and we know that it’s gone through a lot of changes and there’ve been variants before. Now this particular time there have been two particular variants that have been reported to WHO. One was identified in the UK and one was identified in South Africa. They do have one change in common, we call it the N501Y mutation. But otherwise, the two are different. And the reason there’s a concern is that both of these variants were associated with an increase in the number of cases in both of these countries. And scientists have now studied this and have found that these variants do tend to spread faster, they’re more transmissible or more infectious.” 

Amidst this surging tension are also diverse information about new spectra for COVID-19 symptoms. Chiefly amongst such is a message making rounds on WhatsApp. The information claims that non-respiratory symptoms such as loss of appetite, abdominal pain, diarrhea, confusion, bitter taste, dry mouth, eye problems, giddiness, and implies that almost any symptoms of illness will require one to take a COVID-19 test. Finally, the message beckoned on readers to wear a facemask. 

In its entirety, the message outlines that:  

“Hello Family,

On a more serious note, whatever you must do to protect yourself from COVID please do!

Covid is starting to take an unpredictable shape, and many Physicians are likely to miss a diagnosis. What has always looked like regular, unsuspecting conditions now turn out positive COVID cases.  You’d present with what seems like Malaria, Typhoid Fever, Stress; be managed accordingly only to return later with a severe form of Covid. 

Fever and cough, which used to be classical manifestations are now missing in complaints of many presenting patients. We’re having patients report with non-respiratory symptoms such as loss of appetite, abdominal pain, diarrhea, confusion, bitter taste, dry mouth, eye problems, giddiness, and even skin changes. 

COVID doesn’t look like COVID anymore!

These unusual symptoms will make clinical diagnosis more difficult. So almost any symptom you report to the hospital with, may require you to take a COVID test — your finances could be getting strained! 

The virus keeps changing in form and manifestation. But the prevention has not changed. Please, wear a mask!”

COVID-19, like most other prominent issues, has attracted a massive influx of diverse information. On the other, the other hand, the multiplicity of such information has caused confusion and even arguments amongst members of the public. Especially with the case of hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 cure and other mythical claims. It’s as a result of this reality that DUBAWA subjects this information to scrutiny. 

Verification

DUBAWA first reached out to  Dr Jean Baptiste NIKIEMA, Regional Adviser, Essential Medicines at WHO Africa Regional Office in Brazzaville who, though yet to reply, referred us to the WHO website for more detailed information through Ms. Charity, the WHO communication officer. Conformingly, the details found in the website aligns with that of the claim.  The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed all the outlined   COVID-19 symptoms, according to WHO the virus affects different people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization. It categorised the symptoms into three, which also coincides  with the claimant’s proposition. 

Most common symptoms:

Fever, dry cough, tiredness. 

Less common symptoms:

Aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis , headache, loss of taste or smell, a rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes.

Serious symptoms:

Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath chest pain or pressure loss of speech or movement.

In the same context, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) signalled   new symptoms that also aligns with the claimants viral WhatsApp message. It explained that:

“People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

 The Centre further stressed that: “This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19.”

Following  a recent interview with Dr. Frank McGeorge from the Center for Disease Control CDC, COVID-19 is also producing symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and appetite loss in a number of patients young and old. He added that “A recent study out of Stanford University School of Medicine found that nearly one-third of 116 patients infected with the coronavirus reported mild gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. While earlier reports showed that among roughly 200 patients in China, more than half experienced diarrhea, nausea or vomiting.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also acknowledged gastrointestinal GI issues on its list of COVID-19 warning signs.

Dr. Frank stressed that “There’s no question at this point that GI symptoms can be a manifestation of COVID-19,  oftentimes these symptoms can come on even in the absence of the more typical and recognized markers of coronavirus infection, such as fever and cough”.

As regards other indicators such as   dizziness, headache, and confusion. A study conducted by the chief of neuro-infectious diseases at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago found that:

“About 4 out of 5 patients hospitalized with Covid-19 suffer neurologic symptoms such as muscle pain, headaches, confusion, dizziness, and the loss of smell or taste, new research shows.”

This finding is also similar to another study conducted by the John Hopkins Novel Coronavirus Research Compendium (NCRC)  found that neurological manifestations such as the one in headaches, dizziness, confusion, etc.  were present in 42 percent of patients at the onset of COVID-19 symptoms and in 82 percent of patients at any time during the disease course.

For older adults, in particular, these neurological effects can be just as devastating as the pulmonary impacts of coronavirus infection. They can also be easily overlooked or dismissed as dementia or other diseases common with age, the study outlined.

Conclusion 

New studies and findings have confirmed that non-respiratory symptoms such as loss of appetite, abdominal pain, diarrhea, confusion, bitter taste, dry mouth, eye problems, giddiness, and even skin changes could also be symptoms of COVID-19. 

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