Many people with COVID-19 have long-lasting symptoms, study finds

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Since its appearance in early 2020, COVID-19 has been unpredictable for both physicians and affected people given the variety and duration of its symptoms.

Notably, it appears to have the potential to cause an unusually long-lasting illness, and the term “long COVID” describes the disease in people who continue to report symptoms several weeks following the infection.

In a new study, researchers found that about a third of COVID-19 patients have persistent symptoms.

They followed nearly 700 people who tested positive for SARS-COV2 but did not require hospitalization.

Six weeks after diagnosis, 33% of them still reported suffering from fatigue, loss of smell or taste, shortness of breath, or cough.

These results call for better communication, particularly with patients and with the physicians who follow them and for ongoing messages to the general public, reminding them that SARS-CoV-2 infection is not trivial.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Geneva and elsewhere.

Even if in just a few months, medical and scientific knowledge about SARS-COV2 has considerably improved, several aspects of this disease remain unknown.

In particular, many people are wondering about the evolution and long-term consequences of this novel virus.

In the study, a total of 669 people were examined. At 6 weeks from diagnosis, nearly a third of participants still had one or more symptoms related to COVID-19, mainly fatigue (14%), shortness of breath (9%), and loss of taste or smell (12%).

In addition, 6% reported a persistent cough and 3% reported headaches.

In addition to the physical distress of their symptoms, many were very worried: how much longer would it last? Were some after-effects irrecoverable?

Even without a clear medical answer, in the current state of knowledge, it is important to accompany concerned patients and to listen to them, the team says.

With this in mind, they have set up a specific consultation for long COVID patients in order to improve their care and guide them through the health system.

The researchers say that the persistence of symptoms must be recognized in order to legitimize the concerns of patients faced with a new and unknown disease and to optimize their management.

One author of the study is Professor Idris Guessous, a physician epidemiologist.

The study is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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