Coronavirus: Eye pain could be a symptom, data scientist suggests

‘Doctors and public health officials should probably look closely at the relationship between Covid-19 and eye pain’

James Crump
Monday 06 April 2020 18:10
Donald Trump wishes Boris Johnson well in his recovery from coronavirus

Eye pain could be a symptom of Covid-19, according to a former Google data scientist.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has analysed Google search result data from around the world in order to ascertain what symptoms are most searched for in countries worst hit by the pandemic.

Writing in The New York Times, Mr Stephens-Davidowitz revealed that searches for eye pain rose dramatically in the last couple of months in regions badly affected by the coronavirus.

“Searches for eye pain rose above fourfold in Spain between the middle of February and the middle of March and rose about 50 percent in Iran in March,” he said.

“In Italy, searches for ‘bruciore occhi’ (”burning eyes”) were five times their usual levels in March.”


Italy, Spain and Iran have been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with the two European countries reporting the highest amount of Covid-19-related deaths.

Mr Stephens-Davidowitz wrote: “search data offers suggestive evidence that eye pain can be a symptom of the disease”, but added that the amount of searches for eye pain were a fraction of other symptoms.

“In New York there are now about one-sixth as many searches related to eye pain as there are searches related to loss of smell,” he admitted.

“Nonetheless, doctors and public health officials should probably look closely at the relationship between Covid-19 and eye pain.”

In recent weeks, a loss of smell has been reported as a coronavirus symptom, and Mr Stephens-Davidowitz added that searches for the symptom were highest in areas where positive Covid-19 tests were most reported.

“In the United States, in the week ending this past Saturday, searches for “I can’t smell” were highest in New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Michigan — four of the states with the highest prevalence of Covid-19,” he said.

According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, upwards of 337,971 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached at least 9,653.

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