Friday 14 May 2021

Study finds one in 10 who survive mild coronavirus infection still has symptoms 8 months later

  A new study has found that people who survive a mild case of COVID-19 continue to experience symptoms eight months after they get well. Researchers behind the study noted that one in ten healthcare workers they interviewed reported fatigue, loss of taste and loss of smell even after recovering. These symptoms negatively impacted the personal, social and professional lives of COVID-19 survivors, the researchers added.

Scientists from the Swedish Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm collected data from an earlier study in the country that examines post-coronavirus infection immunity. The earlier COMMUNITY study involved the collection of blood samples from more than 2,000 employees at Danderyd Hospital in the Swedish capital. Blood samples were drawn from participating hospital employees in succeeding follow-ups every four months. Participants also answered questions regarding long-term COVID-19 symptoms and how these affected their daily lives.

The Karolinska Institutet researchers focused on the third follow-up, done in January 2021, for their study. They looked at 323 health workers who had mild COVID-19 at least eight months before, and compared them with 1,072 employees who had not contracted the disease up to that point.

Their findings indicated that 25 percent of those who had COVID-19 in the past experienced at least one symptom that lasted more than two months. A total of 21.4 percent said their symptoms still lingered after four months. Meanwhile, 14.9 percent of those who had mild COVID-19 said their symptoms persisted after eight months. Eleven percent of health workers who contracted mild COVID-19 said the symptoms affected their work, social or home life. This contrasted to only two percent in the control group.

Most of the health workers who survived mild COVID-19 reported three long-term symptoms

According to the study, loss of smell was the most common long-term symptom reported. It noted that 14.6 percent of participants experienced loss of smell at least two months after they recovered. Meanwhile, nine percent of participants said they experienced loss of smell eight months later. Fatigue and loss of taste rounded out the other long-lasting symptoms reported by those who recovered from a mild bout of COVID-19.

Danderyd Hospital specialist physician and COMMUNITY study lead researcher Dr. Charlotte Thålin said in a statement: “We investigated the presence of long-term symptoms after mild COVID-19 in a relatively young and healthy group of working individuals, and we found that the predominant long-term symptoms are loss of smell and taste.”

She added that fatigue and respiratory problems “are also more common among participants who have had COVID-19,” but not to the same extent as the three main symptoms.

Thålin further remarked: “We do not see an increased prevalence of … physical disorders such as muscle and joint pain, heart palpitations or long-term fever” in mild COVID-19 survivors. She also estimated that cognitive issues such as “brain fatigue, memory [problems] or concentration impairment” occurred in “only between one and two percent” of volunteers who participated in the study.

While the Swedish researchers only reported a small number of volunteers experiencing problems in brain function, a larger review confirmed that cognitive problems are indeed consistent in COVID-19 survivors. Psychology and psychiatry researchers from the U.K. looked at existing published COVID-19 studies and what these studies found. They analyzed these papers for the long-term effects of Wuhan coronavirus infection and any possible short- and long-term mental health issues that recovered patients face.

According to the researchers’ findings, those who survive a bout of COVID-19 reported a wide range of short-term, neuropsychiatric problems. One study found that 95 percent of clinically stable COVID-19 patients reported post-traumatic stress disorder. Affective disorders such as depression were reported in 17 percent to 42 percent of patients. Meanwhile, 45 percent of patients reported short-term attention impairment – while 13 percent to 28 percent experienced short-term memory impairment.

For the long-term, patients said they experienced affective disorders and fatigue. Long-term attention impairment affected 44 percent of patients, while long-term memory impairment was observed in 28 percent to 50 percent of patients.

In a statement, study author Sanjay Kumar said these problems “affect people’s capacity to work effectively, drive, manage finances, make informed decisions and participate in daily family activities.” He added: “Understanding the neuropsychiatric and cognitive consequences of COVID-19 is important, as millions of people have been affected by the virus, [with] many cases undetected.”

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