Some might take more than a year to recover from COVID, study finds

Study found that around one half of COVID-19 survivors still experience at least one ongoing symptom. [ Dragana Gordic / SHUTTERSTOCK]

One-half of COVID-19 patients discharged from a hospital in Wuhan, China, still experience at least one persistent symptom after 12 months, a study in the Lancet medical journal has shown. Its authors say that this needs to be considered when planning post-pandemic healthcare services.

The study looked at health outcomes for more than 1,200 COVID-19 patients who had been discharged from a hospital in Wuhan between January and May 2020.

Most symptoms in hospitalised patients resolved within 12 months, regardless of the severity of the initial COVID-19 disease. However, around one-half of survivors still experienced at least one ongoing symptom, such as fatigue or muscle weakness, while one in three patients still experienced shortness of breath.

Lung impairments persisted in some patients, especially those who had experienced the most severe illness with COVID-19.

“While most had made a good recovery, health problems persisted in some patients, especially those who had been critically ill during their hospital stay,” said Bin Cao, a professor from the National centre for respiratory medicine at China-Japan Friendship hospital in China.

Cao added that findings “suggest that recovery for some patients will take longer than one year, and this should be taken into account when planning delivery of post-pandemic healthcare services”.

Is it time for COVID-19 booster shot?

It has been around eight months since the first COVID vaccine was authorised in the European Union. As vaccination uptake among adults is nearing 70%, a new debate on whether a COVID-19 booster jab might be necessary is taking place across member states.

Overall, COVID-19 survivors were less healthy than people from the wider community who had not been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

One of the study authors, Lixue Huang from Capital medical university and China-Japan Friendship hospital, said that baseline data for the study participants from before they fell ill with COVID-19 was not available.

“However, the health status of matched people from the community who have never had COVID-19 gives us a useful comparison and can help us to understand the impact of the disease on survivors’ quality of life,” Huang said.

Compared with men, women were 1.4 times more likely to report fatigue or muscle weakness, twice as likely to report anxiety or depression, and almost three times as likely to have lung diffusion impairment after 12 months.

People who had been treated with corticosteroids during the acute phase of their illness with COVID-19 were 1.5 times as likely to experience fatigue or muscle weakness after 12 months compared to those who had not been treated with corticosteroids.

The researchers stressed it is important to follow up on these findings in future research to better understand why COVID-19 symptoms persist in some people.

“Large, long-term studies of COVID-19 survivors are needed so that we can better understand the long term physical and mental health consequences of COVID-19,” said Xiaoying Gu, another one of the study’s authors, from the institute of clinical medical sciences, China-Japan Friendship hospital.

Half of EU vaccinated as Covid returns to China's Wuhan

Half of the European Union’s population has now been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, an AFP tally showed Tuesday, as China’s Wuhan said it would test all 11 million residents after the virus returned to where it first emerged.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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