BRITAIN’S official coronavirus symptoms list is too short – and misses mild signs, doctors have warned.
Experts say that the NHS online symptom checker is too simplistic and could even put people at risk as they may be dismissing milder symptoms.
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For those who are concerned about having Covid-19, the online tool asks whether they have a fever, cough or breathlessness.
If the user responds saying they have none of them, they are told: “You’re unlikely to have coronavirus”.
But other governments around the world, as well as private companies, appear to have set up much more thorough online tools.
In France, everyone is asked 21 questions, including whether they have a sore throat, aches and pains, fatigue or a loss of taste and smell.
By responding yes to any of these – regardless of whether you have a cough, fever or shortness of breath – people are told to “monitor your condition carefully” and limit contact with other people.
Meanwhile, in the US, citizens have access to a chatbot called “Clara”, which was created the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Microsoft.
It asks users if they’ve had a cough, fever, or shortness of breath, before being asked if they’ve experienced nausea or diarrhea, fatigue, muscle aches, a headache, a sore throat or a runny nose.
Those who answer yes to any of the latter signs are not told whether or not they have Covid-19 but advised to stay at home and monitor their symptoms.
In South Korea, which has been praised for testing every potential coronavirus case, there is also a chatbot tool available to check symptoms.
It’s accessed through the country’s most popular messaging service KakaoTalk – similar to Whatsapp – and as well as the key symptoms, it also flags other indicators such as a blocked or runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea.
The service says that its list is based on information from the World Health Organisation.
It comes as:
‘Brits at risk’
Experts say that in comparison with the approach taken by other countries, Brits could be at risk as it may leave them less cautious about symptoms.
Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular biology at the University of Nottingham, told the Telegraph: “Throughout the outbreak I have been incredibly bothered by the [UK’s] restricted case definition.
“When you look at the medical reports describing how cases are presenting, particularly mild infections, coronavirus patients clearly have cold-like symptoms.”
Prof Ball added: “Nobody at any other time would try and do a differential diagnosis for a respiratory virus based on symptoms alone. Yet here we are with a new virus relying on that because we don’t have the capacity to test.”
THE QUESTIONS ASKED IN FRANCE
IN France, everyone is asked a set of questions, to establish if they are at risk of coronavirus.
Translated into English, they are:
1. Do you think you have or have had a fever in the past 48 hours (chills, sweating)?
2. In the past few days, do you have a cough or an increase in your usual cough?
3. In recent days, have you noticed a sharp decrease or loss in your taste or smell?
4. In the past few days, have you had a sore throat and / or muscle pain and / or unusual body aches?
5. In the past 24 hours, have you had diarrhea? With at least 3 loose stools.
6. In recent days, have you been unusually tired?
7. Have you been unable to eat or drink FOR 24 HOURS OR MORE?
8. In the past 24 hours, have you noticed an UNUSUAL shortness of breath when speaking or making a small effort?
9. What is your age ? This is to calculate a specific risk factor.
10. What is your size (height)? In order to calculate the body mass index which is a factor influencing the risk of complications of the infection.
11. What is your weight ? In order to calculate the body mass index which is a factor influencing the risk of complications of the infection.
12. Do you have unbalanced high blood pressure? Or do you have heart or vascular disease? Or are you taking cardiological treatment?
13. Are you diabetic?
14. Have you had or have you had cancer in the past three years?
15. Do you have respiratory disease? Or are you followed by a pulmonologist?
16. Do you have chronic kidney disease on dialysis?
17. Do you have chronic liver disease?
18. Are you pregnant ?
19. Do you have a disease known to lower your immune system?
20. Are you taking immunosuppressive therapy? It is a treatment that lowers your defenses against infection. Here are some examples: corticosteroids, methotrexate, ciclosporin, tacrolimus, azathioprine, cyclophosphamide (non-exhaustive list).
21. What is your postal code ? This information allows us to carry out epidemiological monitoring
Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical director of Patientaccess.com, said: “The current NHS checker asks people to self-isolate if they have a fever of 37.8 degrees C or higher or a new cough lasting at least half a day.
“There are other symptoms of coronavirus but these are the most common ones.
“Other symptoms include headache, feeling generally achy, sore throat and extreme tiredness.
“In the last week or two, two other possible symptoms have emerged.
In the last week or two, two other possible symptoms have emerged
Dr Sarah Jarvis
“The first is loss of sense of smell without any obvious reason, such as hay fever.
“The second is gut issues, including diarrhoea.
“Currently people aren’t officially required to self-isolate if they have these symptoms without cough or fever.
“However, if you want to be really safe, it is worth considering isolating yourself for at least 7 days and getting your family to self-isolate – away from you as well as staying inside – for 14 days if you have at least one of these other symptoms.”
Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, pointed out that the NHS online checker was based on a paper published in late February on the clinical characteristics of the coronavirus in China.
But he added that the problem for all healthcare providers is that the symptoms are broad and cases can be extremely mild.
Public Health England said that the NHS 111 symptom checker follows the case definition set by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Witty.
Steve Powis, NHS England Chief Executive, speaking at a press briefing, said: “Like many viruses that give infections of the upper respiratory tracts. There is a range of symptoms.
“The two commonest are by far cough and a fever and that is exactly why they are the two symptoms that we are asking people to self-isolate if they get those symptoms.”
The Sun Online has contacted NHS England for comment.