At least 50 per cent of those people who were hospitalised with COVID-19 can show some symptoms for two years after the infection, according to a study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. This is the longest such follow-up study done till date. Researchers, who were part of the study, found that physical and mental health improves over a period of time. But those who tested positive for COVID-19 tended to have poorer health and quality of life than the general population.
“Regardless of initial disease severity, Covid-19 survivors had longitudinal improvements in physical and mental health, with most returning to their original work within two years; however, the burden of symptomatic sequelae remained fairly high. Covid-19 survivors had a remarkably lower health status than the general population at two years. The study findings indicate that there is an urgent need to explore the pathogenesis of long Covid and develop effective interventions to reduce the risk of long Covid,” the study states, thus highlighting the need to take steps to tackle long Covid.
“Long Covid symptoms at two years were related to decreased quality of life, lower exercise capacity, abnormal mental health, and increased use of health care after discharge…Critically ill patients had a significantly higher burden of restrictive ventilatory impairment and lung diffusion impairment than controls at the two-year follow-up,” the study further said.
The study also found that fatigue was the most frequently reported symptom throughout the two years ‘regardless of initial disease severity.’
“Consistent with our findings, a high prevalence of fatigue was also observed during the recovery phase of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and could persist for up to four years.”
Around 1,200 patients with acute COVID-19 were included in the study. They all were admitted to Wuhan’s Jin Yin-tan Hospital on January 7 and May 29. It is pertinent to mention that the first COVID-19 cases was reported from China’s Wuhan in December 2019.
“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. 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,” Professor Bin Cao of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in China, and the lead author of the study, was quoted as saying in some reports.