Fever, cough most common symptoms of COVID-19, but don’t overlook a headache or sore throat


TORONTO, Tuesday, March 31, 2020 – A comprehensive review of studies on COVID-19, including clinical, epidemiological, laboratory and chest imaging data, shows that the most common symptom was fever (82%), followed by a cough (61%), then muscle aches and/or fatigue (36%), says York University Postdoctoral Fellow Nicola Bragazzi, a co-author on the paper.

Shortness of breath appeared in 26 per cent of the cases, followed by a headache in 12 per cent and a sore throat in 10 per cent. Gastrointestinal symptoms appeared in nine per cent of patients.

The review, considered one of the first and covering up to Feb. 24, was published in the Special Issue Real Time Clinical and Epidemiological Investigations on Novel Coronavirus of the Journal of Clinical Medicine. The research looked at 60 studies with a total of 59,254 patients from 11 countries.

“It’s important to not to overlook non-respiratory symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, sore throat and gastrointestinal symptoms,” says Bragazzi of the Laboratory for Industrial and Applied Mathematics at the Faculty of Science.

“COVID-19 symptoms are indistinguishable from other viral respiratory illnesses, making it difficult to diagnose, especially as the amount of time before a fever manifests is unknown. This may cause patients to be missed initially and some may be asymptomatic.”

Chest imaging for SARS-CoV-2, however, does show a different pattern, which is becoming a hallmark of COVID-19 infection.

The review found the most prevalent co-morbidities were hypertension, diabetes, chronic liver disease and smoking.

To understand the infection better, more research is needed, especially on the rate of asymptomatic patients and beneficial treatments, says Bragazzi.


York University champions new ways of thinking that drive teaching and research excellence. Our students receive the education they need to create big ideas that make an impact on the world. Meaningful and sometimes unexpected careers result from cross-disciplinary programming, innovative course design and diverse experiential learning opportunities. York students and graduates push limits, achieve goals and find solutions to the world’s most pressing social challenges, empowered by a strong community that opens minds. York U is an internationally recognized research university – our 11 faculties and 25 research centres have partnerships with 200+ leading universities worldwide. Located in Toronto, York is the third largest university in Canada, with a strong community of 53,000 students, 7,000 faculty and administrative staff, and more than 300,000 alumni. York U's fully bilingual Glendon Campus is home to Southern Ontario's Centre of Excellence for French Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education.

Media Contact:

Sandra McLean, York University Media Relations, 416-272-6317, sandramc@yorku.ca