Identification of symptoms prognostic of COVID-19 severity: multivariate data analysis of a case series in Henan province
Background The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19), has been declared a global pandemic. Identifying individuals whose infection can potentially become severe is critical to control the case fatality rate of COVID-19. However, knowledge of symptoms that are prognostic of COVID-19 severity is lacking.
Objective The objective of our study was to identify symptoms prognostic of COVID-19 infection severity.
Methods We analyzed documented symptoms, including fever, cough, fatigue, expectoration, sore throat, chest distress, headache, diarrhea, rhinorrhea, stuffed nose, nausea, vomiting, muscle or joint ache, shortness of breath, and their associations with disease severity using a case series, including 655 confirmed cases from January 23 to February 5, 2020 in Henan Province, China. We also analyzed the influence of individual characteristics, including age, gender, and comorbidities, on symptoms with prognostic value.
Results Fatigue (95% CI 0.141 to 0.334, P<.001), expectoration (95% CI 0.107 to 0.305, P<.001) and stuffed nose (95% CI –0.499 to –0.082, P=.006) were identified as the prognostic symptoms of COVID-19 patients from the multivariate analysis. Fever occurred in 603/655 (92.1%) of the patients but was not associated with disease severity. Fatigue accounted for 184/655 (28.1%) of the patients and was linearly associated with infection severity with statistical significance. Expectoration occurred in 169/655 (25.8%) patients in the cohort and was the sole prognostic factor for patients with cardiovascular complications, including hypertension. Shortness of breath, chest distress, muscle or joint ache, and dry cough, which occurred in 33 (5%), 83 (12.7%), 78 (11.9%), and 276 (42.1%) of the 655 patients, respectively, were significantly enriched among patients classified as severe. Stuffed nose and nausea were associated with favorable disease severity, especially among male patients. More female than male patients were documented as having muscle or joint ache. Headache was most enriched in patents aged 15 to 39 years, followed by those aged 40 to 64 years, with statistical significance.
Conclusions Fatigue and expectoration are signs of severe COVID-19 infection. Shortness of breath, chest distress, muscle or joint ache, and dry cough are prevalent in severe patients. Expectoration is commonly present in older individuals and patients with cardiovascular disorders, including hypertension. Shortness of breath is prognostic of severe infection in male patients. Stuffed nose and nausea are favorable prognostic factors of severe infection, especially among male patients.
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