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Half of hospitalised COVID patients have symptoms after two years

Friday May 13th 2022

Half of people who were hospitalised with COVID-19 have at least one symptom two years later, Chinese research has found.

The evidence emerged as the World Health Organization announced that the number of recorded deaths from the virus in Europe have passed two million.

A study of 1,192 participants in Wuhan who were treated for the virus between 7 January and 29 May 2020 at Jin Yin-tan Hospital followed up the patients at six months, 12 months, and two years after discharge, making it the longest COVID follow-up study to date.

Writing in *The Lancet Respiratory Medicine*, the research team found that physical and mental health improved over time, regardless of initial disease severity, with 55% reporting at least one symptom caused by the initial COVID-19 infection at two years. This compared to 68% at the six-month follow up.

The team found that patients who recovered from COVID-19 tended to be in poorer health two years after the initial infection compared to the general population.

About half of the participants had long-COVID symptoms, such as fatigue, breathlessness and sleep difficulties, at two years, and experienced poorer quality of life, were less able to exercise, had more mental health issues, and used health-care services more compared to those who did not have long-COVID.

Lead author Professor Bin Cao, of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, said: "Our findings indicate that for a certain proportion of hospitalised COVID-19 survivors, while they may have cleared the initial infection, more than two years is needed to recover fully from COVID-19.

"Ongoing follow-up of COVID-19 survivors, particularly those with symptoms of long-COVID, is essential to understand the longer course of the illness, as is further exploration of the benefits of rehabilitation programmes for recovery.

"There is a clear need to provide continued support to a significant proportion of people who've had COVID-19, and to understand how vaccines, emerging treatments, and variants affect long-term health outcomes."

Assessments involved a six-minute walking test, laboratory tests, and questionnaires on symptoms, mental health, health-related quality of life, if they had returned to work, and health-care use after discharge.

The negative effects of long-COVID on quality of life, exercise capacity, mental health, and health-care use were determined by comparing participants with and without long-COVID symptoms.

Health outcomes at two years were determined using an age-, sex-, and comorbidities-matched control group of people in the general population with no history of COVID-19 infection.

Two years after initially falling ill, 31% (351/1,127) of the COVID-19 patients reported fatigue or muscle weakness and 31% (354/1,127) reporting sleep difficulties.

They were also more likely to report a number of other symptoms including joint pain, palpitations, dizziness, and headaches.

Huang L, Li X, Gu X et al. Health outcomes in people 2 years after surviving hospitalisation with COVID-19: a longitudinal cohort study. *Lancet* 11 May 2022.

[abstract]

Tags: Asia | Europe | Flu & Viruses | Mental Health

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