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New Study Shows Some COVID-19 Symptoms More Likely To Progress Into Serious Complications

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A new study focusing on which coronavirus symptoms were most likely to develop into a more serious illness is already helping local doctors.

Symptom Clusters

"This data in aggregate is helpful," Dr. Michael Hochman, USC Gehr Family Center director, said. "We can, as public health experts, known which patients are most likely to get serious complications."

Researchers were able to group nearly 3,000 COVID-19 patients into six clusters based on their symptoms.

Those experiencing flu-like symptoms with no fever, flu-like symptoms with fever and gastrointestinal issues after contracting the illness were said to develop serious complications requiring the use of ventilators or supplemental oxygen at lower rates than patients who experienced fatigue, confusion or abdominal and respiratory symptoms.

"If you have the confusion, shortness of breath, severe abdominal pain, those are absolutely reasons that you should be in touch with a doctor and just be on high alert," Hochman said. "If you're developing high fevers, confusion, difficulty breathing, chest pain, any of the normal symptoms that would cause you under normal circumstances to consider getting medical attention, all those same rules still apply."

But Hochman said that a fever alone should not be cause for panic, as the study illustrated.

"A fever is an indication that your body is sick, it's fighting hard against an infection, but it's also a healthy normal immune response," he said. "It is less about the number, but how you feel otherwise."

Hochman said COVID patients should call the doctor if they start to feel dehydrated or confused or develop a severe headache or fatigue or are unable to work.

"That's a reason to call the doctor and get more attention," he said.

He also said the study's findings can help doctors determine which patients to follow up with more frequently as they recover at home.

"Studies like this give us the insights that we can know which patients to target those resources to, those patients we're really worried about that we want to make sure we follow up with and check on and don't lose sight of," he said.

And while the study shows which symptoms are most likely to result in serious complications, health experts said those who test positive for the virus should remain vigilant since symptoms can quickly progress into more serious ailments.

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