12 October 2022 – A large study from Scotland finds that around 1 in 20 people with long-term COVID continue to live with symptoms at 18 months of age, and another 42% report some improvement in their health and well-being in the same time frame.
Multiple studies are evaluating people who have had COVID for a long time in hopes of finding out why some people develop debilitating symptoms long after the initial infection has passed, while others do not recover or recover more quickly.
This current study is distinguished by its large size – 96,238 people. The researchers checked in with participants at 6, 12 and 18 months of age, and included a group of people who had never had the coronavirus to help investigators make a stronger case.
“A lot of coronavirus symptoms are of indefinite duration, and therefore can occur in people who have never been infected,” says lead study author Jill B Bell, chair of the School of Health and Welfare at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
This study shows that people experienced a wide range of symptoms after contracting COVID-19 at a much higher rate than those who had never been infected, “confirming that they are really related to COVID and not just a coincidence,” she says.
Of the 21,525 people who contracted COVID-19 and experienced symptoms, the most common persistent symptoms were fatigue, headache, and muscle aches or muscle weakness.
Smell loss was 9 times more likely in this group than in the never-injured group in one analysis where the researchers controlled for other potential factors. The risk of loss of taste was approximately 6 times greater, followed by the risk of dyspnea at 3 times higher.
Long-term COVID risks were higher after severe original infection and among the elderly, women, black and South Asian populations, people with socioeconomic disadvantages, and those with more than one underlying health condition.
The addition of 6% with no recovery after 18 months and 42% with partial recovery means that between 6 and 18 months after contracting coronavirus symptoms, nearly half of those infected still had persistent symptoms.
Vaccination has been validated
On the plus side, people who had been vaccinated against COVID-19 before becoming infected were less likely to have some persistent symptoms. In addition, Bell and colleagues found no evidence that people who had asymptomatic infection were more likely to have prolonged COVID symptoms or challenges with activities of daily living.
consequences Long-Term Study of COVID in Scotland (Long-CISS) Published Wednesday in the magazine Nature Communications.
‘Covid is longer than ever’
“Unfortunately, prolonged COVID symptoms do not improve because COVID cases become milder,” says Thomas Gott, MD, medical director of the Post COVID Recovery Program at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City. “Quite the opposite – this infection has become so common in the community because it’s so mild and it spreads so fast that we’re seeing longer symptoms of coronavirus than ever before.”
Although most patients who see them with COVID for a long time resolve their symptoms within 3 to 6 months, “we see some patients who need short-term disability because their symptoms last for 6 months and up to 2 years,” says Gut, who is also a medical doctor. At the University of Staten Island/Northwell Health Hospital.
Patients with fatigue and neurocognitive symptoms “find it very difficult to return to work. A short-term disability gives them time and money to pursue specialized heart care and pulmonary and neurocognitive tests.
support the whole person
The burden of living with the coronavirus for long periods of time goes beyond persistent symptoms. “The prolonged Covid-19 virus can have wide-ranging effects – not only on health but also on quality of life and activities of daily living.” [including] Work, mobility, self-care, and more,” says Bell. “Therefore, people with long-term COVID-19 need support relevant to their individual needs and this may extend beyond the health care sector, for example, including social services, school or Workplace.”
However, Lisa Benzener, RN, founder of the COVID Long Haulers Support Group in Westchester and Long Island, New York, says that while people with the most severe cases of COVID-19 tend to have the worst long-term COVID symptoms, they aren’t the only ones.
“We’ve seen many post-COVID members with mild cases and their long-term symptoms were worse weeks later than the virus itself,” Penziner says.
Penziner estimates that 80% to 90% of her support group members recover within 6 months. “However, there are others with symptoms for longer.”
Respiratory therapy, physical therapy, and other follow-up visits are common after 6 months, for example.
says Benzener, who is also the director of special projects at North Restorative Therapy and Nursing in Westchester.
In addition to ongoing medical care, people who have been infected with COVID for a long time need to be understood, says Benzener.
“While long-term symptoms do not happen to everyone, many have been shown to experience long-term symptoms, and it is important to support the community in understanding.”
Bell and colleagues note some strengths and weaknesses in their study. For example, “As a general population study, our results provide a better indication of the overall risk and burden of novel coronavirus than a long-term hospital cohort,” they note.
Also, 96% of Scotland’s population is white, so further long COVID studies with more diverse participants are warranted.
Another potential weakness is the 16% response rate among those invited to participate in the study, which Bell and colleagues addressed: “Our group included a large sample (33,281) of previously infected subjects and a response rate of 16% overall and 20% among people with co-infection. symptom was consistent with previous studies that used text invitations via SMS as the only method of recruitment.”
“We tell patients this should last 3 to 6 months, but some patients have longer recovery periods,” says Gott. “We are here for them. We have a lot of services available to help them through the recovery process, and we have a lot of options to help support them.”
“What we found most helpful is when there is peer-to-peer support, assuring members that they are not alone in the long-term battle, which has been a huge benefit to the support group,” says Penziner.
If you or someone you know has had COVID for a long time and could benefit from peer support, Penziner can be contacted at [email protected]
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