<< Back

Digestive Symptoms Now Linked to COVID-19

March 26, 2020

Fever, cough, shortness of breath – we all know the well-publicized symptoms for coronavirus (COVID-19) by now, but research from the pandemic epicenter in China indicates that digestive symptoms need to be added to that list.

According to a study published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology, more than half of the people studied – 204 patients in three hospitals in Wuhan, China – came to the hospital worried about digestive issues and not respiratory symptoms.

That news has health officials worldwide, including those at Hartford HealthCare, changing the screening criteria used to identify the risk that people are infected with COVID-19.

“At this time, we are adding generalized abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea for more than 24 hours that is not easily explained by an alternate diagnosis to the screening process,” said Dr. Ulysses Wu, an infectious disease specialist with Hartford HealthCare.

In China, researchers said most people did not seek emergency care of digestive symptoms – which they expanded to include nausea, bloating and loss of appetite – until the symptoms became unbearable in an attempt to avoid contact with people in the hospitals for COVID-19 infection.

Unlike typical stomach bugs, the study noted that these symptoms seem to worsen as the virus grew stronger.

They and Dr. Wu, however, urged people to monitor their symptoms, reach out to their primary care providers and avoid overreacting.

“We know that this has the potential to apply to a majority of patients who are not COVID-19 positive at this time,” Dr. Wu said of the addition of digestive symptoms to the virus screening criteria. “We ask that providers use their best clinical decision-making to look for alternate explanations for their symptoms.”

Anyone with a fever, loss of appetite or diarrhea that won’t go away and who has had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should self-quarantine and call a primary care provider.

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent care doctor.Stay with Hartford HealthCare for everything you need to know about the coronavirus threat. Click here for information updated daily.

Questions? Call our 24-hour hotline (860.972.8100 or, toll-free, 833.621.0600). 

Get text alerts by texting 31996 with COVID19 in the message field.