Typical symptoms of common otorhinolaryngological diseases may mask a SARS-CoV-2 infection

Link to article at PubMed

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2021 Mar 7. doi: 10.1007/s00405-021-06726-4. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) replicates predominantly in the upper respiratory tract and is primarily transmitted by droplets and aerosols. Taking the medical history for typical COVID-19 symptoms and PCR-based SARS-CoV-2 testing have become established as screening procedures. The aim of this work was to describe the clinical appearance of SARS-CoV-2-PCR positive patients and to determine the SARS-CoV-2 contact risk for health care workers (HCW).

METHODS: The retrospective study included n = 2283 SARS-CoV-2 PCR tests from n = 1725 patients with otorhinolaryngological (ORL) diseases performed from March to November 2020 prior to inpatient treatment. In addition, demographic data and medical history were assessed.

RESULTS: n = 13 PCR tests (0.6%) were positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA. The positive rate showed a significant increase during the observation period (p < 0.01). None of the patients had clinical symptoms that led to a suspected diagnosis of COVID-19 before PCR testing. The patients were either asymptomatic (n = 4) or had symptoms that were interpreted as symptoms typical of the ORL disease or secondary diagnoses (n = 9).

CONCLUSION: The identification of SARS-CoV-2-positive patients is a considerable challenge in clinical practice. Our findings illustrate that taking a medical history alone is of limited value and cannot replace molecular SARS-CoV-2 testing, especially for patients with ORL diseases. Our data also demonstrate that there is a high probability of contact with SARS-CoV-2-positive patients in everyday clinical practice, so that the use of personal protective equipment, even in apparently "routine cases", is highly recommended.

PMID:33677653 | DOI:10.1007/s00405-021-06726-4

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