A study published this week by Geneva’s HUG hospital and the University of Geneva (UNIGE) on long-term Covid-19 reveals that 39% of patients have symptoms lasting 7 to 9 months.
Women and those with more symptoms are more likely to suffer persistent symptoms, according to the research. These symptoms can disappear and return, however their intensity tends to decrease over time. Persistent fatigue, neurological disorders, shortness of breath, heart problems or psychiatric disorders are the most common symptoms.
The study followed 410 patients1 that consulted the HUG hospital between 18 March and 15 May 2020 and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Fatigue (20.7%) was most common symptom, followed by loss of taste or smell (16.8%), shortness of breath (11.7%) and headaches (10% ).
The results are comparable to international studies of the same type, said Dr Mayssam Nehme, one of the authors of the work. This is currently one of the first studies set up post-COVID with such a large number of participants, said Nehme.
The study reveals a higher incidence among women, especially for fatigue, shortness of breath and headaches. However, all age groups are affected, including young and healthy people. The prevalence of certain symptoms varies for certain age groups: for example, 40-60 year olds have more muscle pain.
People who have developed more symptoms in the acute phase of the illness are more likely to develop persistent symptoms. The symptoms can come and go over time. Some people have reported symptoms disappearing between 30 and 45 days only for the symptoms to return seven to nine months after infection. The cause of these variations remains unexplained, but is the subject of various hypotheses under study, according to the researchers.
Although mild to moderate, the symptoms nonetheless impact quality of life. People who were at their best before their infection are clearly not at their best after, said one of the authors. This feeling of no longer feeling your best adds to the discouragement and is particularly difficult to live with.
Except for headaches, the intensity and severity of symptoms seem to decrease over time. For those affected, there is hope. The health of the majority of people will improve gradually over time. Unfortunately, some will have more difficulty recovering.
The authors of the study conclude by writing that this research shows that residual symptoms after SARS-CoV-2 infection are common among otherwise young and healthy persons followed in an outpatient setting. The findings contribute to the recognition of long-term effects in a disease mostly counted by its death toll to date by promoting communication on post acute sequelae and encouraging physicians to continue long-term monitoring of their patients.
1629 participants began the study but only 410 continued until the end of the research.