Surveillance of COVID-19 in the General Population Using an Online Questionnaire: Report From 18,161 Respondents in China

Hongxing Luo*, Yongchan Lie, Frits W Prinzen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: The recent outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has become an international pandemic. So far, little is known about the role of an internet approach in COVID-19 participatory surveillance.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to investigate whether an online survey can provide population-level information for observing prevalence trends during the early phase of an outbreak and identifying potential risk factors of COVID-19 infection.

METHODS: A 10-item online questionnaire was developed according to medical guidelines and relevant publications. It was distributed between January 24 and February 17, 2020. The characteristics of respondents and temporal changes of various questionnaire-derived indicators were analyzed.

RESULTS: A total of 18,161 questionnaires were returned, including 6.45% (n=1171) from Wuhan City. Geographical distributions of the respondents were consistent with the population per province (R2=0.61, P<.001). History of contact significantly decreased with time, both outside Wuhan City (R2=0.35, P=.002) and outside Hubei Province (R2=0.42, P<.001). The percentage of respondents reporting a fever peaked around February 8 (R2=0.57, P<.001) and increased with a history of contact in the areas outside Wuhan City (risk ratio 1.31, 95% CI 1.13-1.52, P<.001). Male sex, advanced age, and lung diseases were associated with a higher risk of fever in the general population with a history of contact.

CONCLUSIONS: This study shows the usefulness of an online questionnaire for the surveillance of outbreaks like COVID-19 by providing information about trends of the disease and aiding the identification of potential risk factors.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere18576
Number of pages12
JournalJMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2020


  • Adult
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • China/epidemiology
  • Community-Based Participatory Research
  • Coronavirus
  • Coronavirus Infections/epidemiology
  • Cough/etiology
  • Disease Outbreaks/prevention & control
  • Female
  • Fever/etiology
  • Headache/etiology
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral/epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • SARS-CoV-2

Cite this