Researchers at the University of Southern California say that they've found that symptoms of COVID-19 tend to appear in a particular order. This discovery could help enable earlier detection and treatment for numerous patients.

"This is a good guide of sorts," Dr. Bob Lahita, a professor of medicine who is not affiliated with the study said. "We can say safely, studying as they did, I think it was 55,000 patients from China, they looked at the data and looked at the symptoms and found that this order was pretty reproducible."

According to the study, which was published in the medical journal Frontier Public Health, the most likely order of symptoms are as follows: fever, then cough and muscle pain, followed by nausea and/or vomiting, and then diarrhea.

"Fever is number one, followed by cough, followed by aches and pains -- and they do not all have to appear in sequence, they can appear together," Dr. Lahita said of the first grouping of symptoms. After that, he said, comes nausea and vomiting, followed by diarrhea.

Of course, not all patients experience the same set of symptoms. But these new findings help emphasize how COVID-19 differs from other well-known illnesses. While fever and cough are associated with a number of other diseases, like the flu, this study notes that it's the timing in which these symptoms appear that sets this virus apart.

In a press release about the study, USC scientist Peter Kuhn said that understanding the order of symptoms of this virus is helpful during "overlapping cycles of illnesses" such as the upcoming flu season.

"Doctors can determine what steps to take to care for the patient, and they may prevent the patient's condition from worsening," Kuhn said.