Estimating the efficacy of symptom-based screening for COVID-19

NPJ Digit Med. 2020 Jul 13;3:95. doi: 10.1038/s41746-020-0300-0. eCollection 2020.


There is substantial interest in using presenting symptoms to prioritize testing for COVID-19 and establish symptom-based surveillance. However, little is currently known about the specificity of COVID-19 symptoms. To assess the feasibility of symptom-based screening for COVID-19, we used data from tests for common respiratory viruses and SARS-CoV-2 in our health system to measure the ability to correctly classify virus test results based on presenting symptoms. Based on these results, symptom-based screening may not be an effective strategy to identify individuals who should be tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection or to obtain a leading indicator of new COVID-19 cases.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Viral infection.