Globally, there are now over 190 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 4 million deaths. While the majority of infected individuals recover, a significant proportion continues to experience symptoms and complications after their acute illness.
Patients with “long COVID” experience a wide range of physical and mental/psychological symptoms.
A review led by University of Birmingham researchers in the United Kingdom, was recently published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine and showed that the most common symptoms were fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle and joint pain, headache, altered smell and taste, chest pain, cough, and diarrhea.
Other symptoms included cognitive dysfunction, memory loss, sleep disorders, and anxiety. The team analyzed pooled prevalence data from the Living Systematic Review database, which suggested patients with five or more coronavirus symptoms in the first week of infection are significantly more likely than others to develop long COVID-19.
One of two symptom clusters consisted of fatigue, headache, and upper respiratory issues, and the other was made up of multisystem symptoms of fever and gastroenterologic problems.
People with long COVID-19 reported lower quality of life, mental illness, and employment problems. These individuals may require multidisciplinary care involving the long-term monitoring of symptoms, to identify potential complications, physical rehabilitation, mental health and social services support. Resilient healthcare systems are needed to ensure efficient and effective responses to future health challenges.
We are still learning how long the illness lasts and it can vary in different individuals. It’s important to note that this isn’t unique to Covid-19 – other viral illnesses can also have lasting effects. Long Covid is not contagious. Long Covid symptoms are caused by your body’s response to the virus continuing beyond the initial illness. The best way to protect yourself from getting Long Covid is to avoid getting COVID in the first place.*
Dr. Melvin Sanicas (@Vaccinologist) is a physician-scientist specializing in vaccines, infectious diseases, and global health.