Establishments have begun easing indoor dining restrictions nationwide to combat commercial limitations ahead of winter.
Although the medical community has come out against premature re-openings without a vaccine, infectious disease experts are fast at work supplying markets with ways to help business owners assess risk when hosting large groups.
Recently, Jose-Luis Jimenez, who is a professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of Colorado developed a mathematical model informed by mask material, location size, and ventilation technology.
Although less comprehensive, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital devised a similarly reliable way to gauge COVID-19 transmission hotspots.
After an in-depth review of internet searches logged between January 20th and April 20th, increased interest in terms like ageusia, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, anorexia, diarrhea, and vomiting preceded coronavirus outbreaks roughly three to four weeks before they occurred.
“Google Trends is an online tool that allows measurement of search term popularity on Google, spatially, and temporally. While not an epidemiological tool for determining incidence, it can estimate the popularity of a certain disease by search volume over time,” the researchers wrote in a study published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.” It has previously correlated well with infectious disease incidence and has demonstrated utility in disease forecasting, especially with influenza data.3 We utilized Google Trends to investigate whether search interest in common gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms would correlate with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) incidence data.”
In order to measure the highest disease incidences, New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, and Illinois were observed. For median incidence states, Alabama, South Carolina, Nevada, Mississippi, and Rhode Island were used. Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Alaska represented the lowest-incidence states.
Increased internet search interest for GI symptoms could predict COVID-19 cases
A high volume of searches indicating gastral discomfort and neuropathies from residents living in New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, and Illinois effectively foreshadowed disease instance.
The disease caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is a respiratory one, but GI disruptions are often one the first predictors of infection.
The time-lapse that separates searches reloving around the aforementioned symptoms could be due to differences in testing availability, reporting, or the longer incubation period of COVID-19 compared with other common infectious diseases like influenza.
Because anti-body tests report false negative and positives 10% of the time, health systems sometimes have to rely on unconventional means to draft sufficient countermeasures.
COVID-19’s erratic incubation period further frustrates contact tracing. Patients are believed to be the most contagious while they are asymptomatic. Forty percent of coronavirus carriers will not show any symptoms even though they shed viral debris like everyone else.
All of this to say, risk data sets are especially important as we enter a winter that will stabilize the most destructive pathogen in recent memory and destabilize economic markets around the world.
Google searches for ageusia (or the loss of taste functions of the tongue, namely the inability to detect sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness) and loss of appetite yielded the strongest correlations with COVD-19 outbreaks.
“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,” Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist and the director of Mass General’s gastrointestinal motility laboratory, and colleagues concluded in the study.