Experts in Iran say coronavirus symptoms are changing

Experts in Iran say coronavirus symptoms are changing
Knowledge about the Covid-19 disease is constantly evolving; Iranian epidemiologists say symptoms of the disease are shifting away from fevers and coughs.
2 min read
20 May, 2020
Iran has been the epicentre for the regional coronavirus outbreak [Getty]
Symptoms of the Covid-19 disease in Iran have shifted from respiratory to gastrointestinal manifestations, Iranian epidemiologists have observed.

The disease caused by the novel coronavirus first emerged in China's Hubei province late last year, and has been marked by a number of respiratory symptoms, including high fevers, coughing and shortness of breath.

But as the months press on, doctors and epidemiologists across the world are identifying new indicators of the Covid-19 disease, such as a lack of taste or smell.

Epidemiologists in Iran have observed a shift of symptoms in coronavirus patients requiring hospitalisation, Radio Farda reported on Tuesday.

"Covid-19 had symptoms such as coughs, shortness of breath and high fever before. These symptoms were observed in the first two months after the outbreak. But now the most important symptoms of Covid-19 are gastrointestinal," Dr. Mohammad-Reza Mahboubfar, a viral epidemiologist and member of Iran's Coronavirus Taskforce, said.

Such gastrointestinal symptoms include acute diarrhoea, stomachaches, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal spasms, low fever, and loss of taste and/or smell, Mahboubfar said, and have been observed in patients of all ages.

These symptoms are often accompanied by a low fever, or even no fever at all, causing a delay in diagnosis of the Covid-19 disease. Such a delay can cause the further spread of the coronavirus among others in the general population.
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Dr. Hassan Abedi, a gastroenterologist at the Babol Medical Sciences University, warned of the change in symptoms last week.

Fewer patients are being admitted with respiratory symptoms and there is a spike in Covid-19 patients with gastrointestinal symptoms, Abedi said.

Around a quarter of Covid-19 patients exclusively show gastrointestinal symptoms, according to Abedi.

Patients with gastrointestinal symptoms do not suffer high temperatures in around a third of cases, said the doctor who works in a hospital in the northern city of Babol, an early hotspot of the Iranian coronavirus epidemic. Instead, these patients suffer acute diarrhoea which occurs at least five times a day and can last for up to two weeks.

Dr. Seyed Reza Fatemi, a gastroenterologist from Shahid Beheshti University of Tehran, has observed that as many as 50 percent of Covid-19 patients experience gastrointestinal symptoms.

Also common is liver and pancreas damage, Fatemi said. Such damage occurs in 20 to 30 percent of Covid-19 patients, according to Fatemi.

The emergence of gastrointestinal symptoms could be affecting the Iranian health ministry's official toll of coronavirus cases, Mahboubfar added.

The epidemiologist also said that new cases are likely to increase in the coming days and weeks as Iranian authorities ease lockdown measures.

Iran has reported more than 124,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 7,119 deaths.

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