Lasting COVID symptoms ‘common’

A ‘significant proportion’ of people who have had COVID experienced lasting impacts, British researchers report today.

A study by Professor Paul Elliott of Imperial College London, UK, and colleagues was reported last night. They looked at self-reported health, quality of life, and symptoms among 276,840 people with ongoing symptoms after COVID.

Participants were from England and surveyed as part of the REACT study.
In Nature Communications they write: “The COVID-19 pandemic is having a lasting impact on health and well-being.”

In the study, “mental health and health-related quality of life were worse among participants with ongoing persistent symptoms post-COVID compared with those who had never had COVID or had recovered.”

Among the participants, 7.5% still had symptoms at 12 weeks, and 5.2% had symptoms at one year. Lasting symptoms included mild fatigue, brain fog, and joint pains, as well as the less common symptoms of change to sense of smell or taste, shortness of breath, severe fatigue, chest tightness or pain, and poor memory.

The risk was increased for women, those with comorbidities, and those infected when Wild-type variant was dominant.

“Although COVID-19 is usually of short duration, some adults experience persistent and burdensome illness,” the authors write.

Professor Elliott said: “We find that the variant of SARS-CoV-2 people are infected with, the initial severity of their symptoms, and whether they have pre-existing health conditions all have an impact on whether they will develop lasting symptoms.”

Co-author Dr Christina Atchison added: “Importantly, we find that those infected when Omicron was dominant were far less likely to report symptoms lasting beyond 12 weeks. This may reflect the changing levels of immunity in the population from previous exposure to the virus and vaccination.”

Atchison, C. et al. Long-term health impacts of COVID-19 among 242,712 adults in England. Nature Communications 24 October 2023 doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-41879-2


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