COVID May Have Been in LA Earlier Than Believed

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay reporter

FRIDAY September 11, 2020 (HealthDay News) – There may have been cases of COVID-19 in Los Angeles as early as last December, months before the first known U.S. cases were identified, according to a new study.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 10 million patient visit records for outpatient departments, emergency departments, and hospitals at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). They compared data for the period December 1, 2019 to February 29, 2020 to data for the same months over the previous five years.

Outpatient visits for cough increased by 50% in the months leading up to the pandemic and exceeded the average number of visits for the same symptoms by more than 1,000 compared to the same period in the previous five years.

The researchers also found that in the months leading up to the pandemic, there had been a significant increase in the number of cough patients seen in the emergency room and the number of patients hospitalized for acute respiratory failure.

The study was published on September 10 in the Internet medical research journal.

Other factors – such as the flu and vaping – may have contributed to some of the unexpected increase, but the results show the importance of scanning electronic health records to quickly identify unusual changes in patient profiles. patients, according to the researchers.

“For many illnesses, data from the outpatient setting can provide early warning to emergency departments and hospital intensive care units of what is to come,” said lead author of the study, Dr. Joann Elmore, professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. .

“The majority of studies on COVID-19 assess hospitalization data, but we have also looked at the broader context of outpatient clinics, where most patients turn to medical care first for illness and symptoms, ”she said in a UCLA press release.

“We may never really know if these excess patients represented early and undetected COVID-19 cases in our area,” Elmore said. “But the lessons learned from this pandemic, coupled with healthcare analytics that enable real-time disease and symptom surveillance, can potentially help us identify and track emerging outbreaks and future epidemics.”

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SOURCE: University of California, Los Angeles, press release, September 10, 2020

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