In a new study from Danderyd Hospital and Karolinska Institutet, researchers found that eight months after mild COVID-19, 1 in 10 people still have at least one moderate to the severe symptom that is perceived as having a negative impact on their work, social or home life.
The most common long-term symptoms are fatigue and a loss of smell and taste.
In the first phase of the study in spring 2020, blood samples were collected from 2,149 employees, of whom about 19% had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.
Blood samples have since then been collected every four months, and study participants have responded to questionnaires regarding long-term symptoms and their impact on the quality of life.
In the third follow-up in January 2021, the research team examined the self-reported presence of long-term symptoms and their impact on work, social, and home life for participants who had had mild COVID-19 at least eight months earlier.
This group consisted of 323 healthcare workers and was compared with 1,072 healthcare workers who did not have COVID-19 throughout the study period.
The results show that 26% of those who had COVID-19 previously, compared to 9% in the control group, had at least one moderate to the severe symptom that lasted more than two months.
In addition, 11%, compared to 2% in the control group, had a minimum of one symptom with a negative impact on work, social or home life that lasted at least eight months.
The most common long-term symptoms were loss of smell and taste, fatigue, and respiratory problems.
The team says that the predominant long-term symptoms are loss of smell and taste. Fatigue and respiratory problems are also more common among participants who have had COVID-19 but do not occur to the same extent.
They do not see an increased prevalence of cognitive symptoms such as brain fatigue, memory and concentration problems or physical disorders such as muscle and joint pain, heart palpitations or long-term fever.
The study will now continue, with the next follow-up taking place in May when a large proportion of study participants are expected to be vaccinated.
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The study is published in JAMA. One author of the study is Charlotte Thålin, specialist physician, Ph.D.
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