Assessment of the early detection of anosmia-ageusia symptoms in COVID-19 on Twitter: A retrospective study.

Publication date: Aug 01, 2023

During the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, social media has been extensively used to amplify the spread of information and to express personal health-related experiences regarding symptoms, including anosmia and ageusia, two symptoms that have been reported later than other symptoms. Our objective is to investigate to what extent Twitter users reported anosmia and ageusia symptoms in their tweets and if they connected them to COVID-19, to evaluate whether these symptoms could have been identified as COVID-19 symptoms earlier using Twitter rather than the official notice. We collected French tweets posted between January 1, 2020 and March 31, 2020 containing anosmia or ageusia related keywords. Symptoms were detected using fuzzy matching. The analysis consisted of three parts. First, we compared the coverage of anosmia-ageusia symptoms in Twitter and in traditional media to determine if the association between COVID-19 and anosmia-ageusia could have been identified earlier through Twitter. Second, we conducted a manual analysis of anosmia-ageusia related tweets to obtain quantitative and qualitative insights regarding their nature and to assess when the first associations between COVID-19 and these symptoms were established. We randomly annotated tweets from two periods: the early stage and the rapid spread stage of the epidemic. Each symptom/tweet was annotated regarding three modalities: symptom (yes/no), associated with COVID-19 (yes/no/unknown), and whether it was experienced by someone (yes/no/unknown). Third, to evaluate if there was a global increase of tweets mentioning anosmia-ageusia in early 2020, corresponding to the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, we compared the tweets reporting experienced anosmia or ageusia between the first periods of 2019 and 2020. 832 (resp. 12,544) tweets containing anosmia (resp. ageusia) related keywords were extracted over the analysis period in 2020. The comparison to traditional media showed a strong correlation without any lag, which suggests an important reactivity of Twitter but no earlier detection on Twitter. The annotation of tweets from 2020 showed that tweets correlating anosmia-ageusia with COVID-19 could be found a few days before the official announcement. However, no association could be found during the first stage of the pandemic. Information about the temporality of symptoms and the psychological impact of these symptoms could be found in the tweets. The comparison between early 2020 and early 2019 showed no difference regarding the volumes of tweets. Based on our analysis of French tweets, associations between COVID-19 and anosmia-ageusia by web users could have been found on Twitter just a few days before the official announcement but not during the early stage of the pandemic. Patients share qualitative information on Twitter regarding anosmia-ageusia symptoms that could be of interest for future analyses.

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Concepts Keywords
French Ageusia
Infodemiology Anosmia
Pandemic Covid
Twitter Detection


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19
disease IDO symptom
disease VO document
disease VO ProHIBiT
drug DRUGBANK Diethylstilbestrol
drug DRUGBANK L-Citrulline
drug DRUGBANK Coenzyme M
disease MESH infectious diseases
disease MESH influenza
disease VO vaccination
drug DRUGBANK Ethanol
disease VO frequency
disease VO vaccine
disease MESH allergy
disease VO injection
disease IDO site
disease MESH pneumonia
disease VO time
disease IDO production
disease VO population
disease MESH infection
disease VO organization
disease MESH taste disorders
disease MESH respiratory diseases
pathway REACTOME Translation
disease VO volume
disease VO effective
disease VO Gap
drug DRUGBANK Aminosalicylic Acid
disease MESH gout
disease MESH causes
disease IDO process
disease VO nose
drug DRUGBANK Water
drug DRUGBANK Carboxyamidotriazole
disease MESH Coronavirus Infection
disease MESH Adverse Drug Reaction

Original Article

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