Nearly half of COVID patients worldwide still experience symptoms after 4 months

(ORDO NEWS) — Nearly half of COVID survivors – both children and adults – have persistent symptoms four months later, according to a landmark new study.

Researchers at the University of Leicester in England analyzed almost 200 studies of patients who had previously had COVID, involving a total of about 750,000 people. The patients – some of them hospitalized and some not – lived all over the world.

More than 45% of study participants had at least one lingering symptom four months after infection. A quarter of patients noted fatigue, and the same number – pain or discomfort.

Meanwhile, sleep problems, shortness of breath and trouble participating in normal daily activities were reported in just under a quarter of patients, according to the study.

Often no clinical abnormalities could be found to explain these symptoms. However, many patients hospitalized with COVID showed some signs, including changes in lung structure and function.

Nearly half of previously hospitalized patients had abnormal CT scans and/or x-rays, in addition to decreased ability to diffuse carbon monoxide in nearly a third of patients.

“Changes in lung function are similar to those seen after other viral infections, including SARS and MERS,” the authors write.

When non-hospitalized COVID survivors were isolated, more than a third of them had persistent symptoms for four months, the study found.

“The reasons why so many patients experience prolonged COVID remain unknown,” the authors write, adding that possible causes include organ damage, inflammation, altered immune systems, and psychological effects.

While some studies have found a higher incidence of long-term COVID in women, the Leicester study did not find any specific age group or gender to have higher rates of this disabling condition.

The researchers were unable to reliably assess a potential association with race, as only a quarter of the studies reported participants’ race or ethnicity.

According to data compiled by the US Census Bureau this summer, nearly 20% of American adults with COVID – roughly 50 million people – report long-term COVID symptoms.

Prolonged COVID is loosely defined as symptoms that persist or appear for a long time after the initial infection has cleared, but a general definition is not yet widely accepted.

Many experts argue that long-term COVID is best defined as a chronic fatigue syndrome that develops after COVID disease, similar to other post-viral syndromes that can occur after infection with herpes, Lyme disease, and even Ebola.

Other post-COVID complications, such as organ damage and post-intensity syndrome, should not be defined as long-term COVID, they say.

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