Symptom tracker app suggests coronavirus entered the UK 'in early January'

27 April 2020, 14:44

Coronavirus may have been in the UK since January
Coronavirus may have been in the UK since January. Picture: PA
Maddie Goodfellow

By Maddie Goodfellow

A Covid-19 symptom tracking app has found that coronavirus may have entered the UK as early as the beginning of January.

This would mean that the virus hit the UK much earlier than previously thought, and a substantial time before the first person in the UK was diagnosed in February.

Some people reported having Covid-19 symptoms as early as December, according to the tracking app.

More than 20,700 people have now died in UK hospitals after contracting the infection but the total is believed to be much higher.

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The app, developed by scientists at King’s College London, asks users to report their symptoms on a daily basis to try and track how the virus is spreading and how it affects different people.

2.6 million people have signed up to the tracker, with hundreds saying they suffered symptoms in line with coronavirus just after the new year.

The app also found that some people may be more susceptible to coronavirus because of their genetic make-up, early research suggests, after analysing symptom data from twins.

According to data submitted to a symptom tracking app, genes are 50% responsible for the presentation of key symptoms of Covid-19 including fever, fatigue and loss of taste and smell.

There are now more than 150,000 cases in the UK
There are now more than 150,000 cases in the UK. Picture: PA

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"I would like to say a big thank you to all our twins for logging their symptoms and health status regularly in the app," said Professor Frances Williams, from King's College London and TwinsUK.

"It's because of their tremendous commitment to health research over the years that we are able to carry out this crucial research so quickly."

They noticed that genes were almost 50% responsible for the development of symptoms of delirium, fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, diarrhoea and loss of taste and smell in individuals.

Meanwhile, other symptoms such as hoarse voice, cough, chest pain and abdominal pain were thought to be a result of the surrounding environment.

It is hoped these findings could provide scientists with an indication on how to go about developing treatments, as well as helping to identify high-risk groups.

The research has been published in a pre-print non-peer reviewed paper published online.

"It's essential that everybody keeps logging their health status in the app - even if you feel well," said Professor Tim Spector from King's College London.

"The data you provide enables us to carry out this urgent research to understand the behaviour and progression of the virus."

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