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What COVID-19 symptoms come first? New study claims to know.

Researchers say knowing the order of coronavirus symptoms may help doctors know whether a patient has COVID-19 or the flu.

Researchers at the University of Southern California looking at data from tens of thousands of COVID-19 patients believe they have figured out the order in which symptoms most often arrive. They say it could help to more quickly identify patients.

The study from USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience’s Convergent Science Institute in Cancer said the likely order of when symptoms first appear is fever, cough and muscle pain, then nausea and/or vomiting then diarrhea.

Peter Kuhn, professor of medicine, biomedical engineering, and aerospace and mechanical engineering at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, says knowing the order is especially important when there are overlapping cycles of illnesses, such as the upcoming flu season.

“Doctors can determine what steps to take to care for the patient, and they may prevent the patient’s condition from worsening," Kuhn said in a statement from USC.

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The study authors looked at more than 56,000 confirmed coronavirus cases from China between Dec. 11, 2019 and Feb. 24, 2020. To compare the COVID-19 cases to influenza cases, the researchers looked at data from 2,470 cases in North America, Europe and the Southern Hemisphere between 1994 and 1998.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe or fatal illness.

The peer-reviewed study is published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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