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Commentary: App tracking for COVID-19

An article in the BMJ (27 March 2020) discussed the introduction of an app to allow tracking of symptoms of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 symptom tracker app identifies the prevalence of known symptoms and maps these to areas of the UK. As only hospital patients are routinely tested, researchers understand very little about the community prevalence and range of symptoms experienced. The app collects anonymised demographic data including age, sex, weight/height, postcode, long-term health conditions and regular use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or immunosuppressant therapy.

The app captures prevalence data on the known symptoms of COVID-19 (that is, fever, persistent cough). In addition, because patients record their COVID-19 status if known, it allows researchers to track for other possible symptoms.

The latest analysis is available on the website and interestingly, the data suggests that nearly six in ten infected patients (59%) also lose their sense of smell or taste. Of course, a limitation of the app is that because symptoms are self-reported it is not entirely clear if they are specifically due to COVID-19.

Nevertheless, by tracking the prevalence of known and emerging COVID-19 symptoms, it offers an invaluable insight to those planning how best to manage the pandemic.