A persistent cough and fever have been confirmed as the most prevalent symptoms of COVID-19, according to a major review of studies which identified fatigue, loss of smell and difficulty in breathing among other major symptoms.
The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, ratifies the list of symptoms listed by the World Health Organisation at the start of the pandemic.
The researchers, including those from the University of Leeds in the UK, combined data from 148 separate studies to identify the common symptoms experienced by over 24,000 patients from nine countries, including the UK, China and the US.
The researchers said the study is one of the biggest reviews ever conducted into COVID-19 symptoms. They acknowledged that there is likely to be a large proportion of people who had the virus but did not display symptoms.
"This analysis confirms that a cough and fever were the most common symptoms in people who tested positive with COVID-19," Ryckie Wade, a surgeon and Clinical Research Fellow at the Leeds Institute of Medical Research, said. "This is important because it ensures that people who are symptomatic can be quarantined, so they are not infecting others, Wade said.
Of the 24,410 cases, the study found 78 per cent had a fever, the researchers said. As many as 57 per cent reported a cough, which varied across countries, with 76 per cent of patients reporting a cough in the Netherlands compared to 18 per cent in South Korea, they said.
Nearly 31 per cent said they had suffered fatigue, 25 per cent lost the ability to smell, while 23 per cent reported difficulty breathing, according to the researchers. They believe the variation in the prevalence of symptoms between countries is due, in part, to the way data was collected.
The researchers found that of those patients who needed hospital treatment, 17 per cent needed non-invasive help with their breathing, and 19 per cent had to be looked after in an intensive care unit. Nine per cent patients required invasive ventilation and two per cent needed an artificial lung, they said.