Study: COVID-19 symptoms persist in many after 2 years

A study of nearly 700 people infected during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic showed that two years later more than half are still experiencing at least one symptom of the infection.

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The study, reported in the peer reviewed JAMA Network Open, found that 59.7% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 suffered with at least one COVID-19 symptom two years after the original infection, and 67.5% of those who did not require hospitalization were dealing with at least one symptom during the same period.

Fatigue, pain including headache and memory loss were the symptoms seen most often in both groups.

“Our results revealed similar proportions of hospitalized and non-hospitalized patients with post-COVID-19 symptoms two years after the acute infection, suggesting that, despite having not been hospitalized during the acute phase, the symptoms of long COVID are also found in the non-hospitalized cohort,” the study’s authors wrote.

“This finding could be explained by the fact that COVID-19 severity is not a risk factor for the development of long COVID symptoms.”

People who had not been infected with COVID-19 were not included in the study, the authors noted, saying they needed to be part of future studies.

According to the findings, the most frequent symptoms reported when patients in the study were first infected with the virus were fever, dyspnea (trouble breathing), myalgia (muscle aches), and cough.

Trouble breathing was more prevalent among hospitalized patients, while anosmia – the loss of the sense of smell -- was more prevalent among non-hospitalized patients.

“These differences could be explained by the fact that individuals experiencing less bothersome and less severe symptoms (e.g., anosmia, ageusia or loss of the sense of taste, and throat pain) did not seek hospitalization during the first wave of the pandemic,” said Dr. César Fernández-de-las-Peñas, of Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, in Madrid, Spain, who headed the study.