Covid-19: fatigue would persist for several weeks after illness

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An Irish study seems to confirm that the mental and physical fatigue that affects many "covid patients" could last in the medium term, regardless of the severity of the infection.

Fatigue is a common symptom in people with symptomatic Covid-19 disease infection. And on social media, many convalescent patients also testify to persistent mental and physical fatigue, under the hashtag #LongCovid or #CovidLong. A phenomenon still little studied.

However, preliminary findings from an Irish study published July 30 in the journal medRxiv go in this direction. They should be detailed at the next congress of the European Society for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (23-25 September).

52% of patients report persistent fatigue

To carry out this study, the researchers relied on 128 patients and staff from Irish St James Hospital (Dublin). 71 of them were hospitalized and another 57 suffered a mild form of the infection. On average, they were all 50 years old and their disease was confirmed by the virological RT-PCR test.

Of these 128 participants, more than half (52%) reported persistent fatigue, when assessed an average of ten weeks after clinical recovery. "Interestingly, fatigue is not associated with the initial severity of the disease and there is no detectable difference in pro-inflammatory cytokines or immune cell populations," say the researchers.

"This study highlights the burden of fatigue, its impact on returning to work, and the importance of monitoring all patients diagnosed with Covid, not just those who are hospitalized."

Anxious women and people seem more prone to fatigue.

Researchers have examined a multitude of factors to explain this phenomenon: the severity of the initial disease, preexisting pathologies, and various biological elements (inflammation markers, etc.). A priori, the fact that a patient has been hospitalized or not would not influence their "post-covid" state.

"Fatigue occurred regardless of hospital admission and affected both groups equally," said one of the studys authors, Liam Townsend, an infectious disease specialist at St. James Hospital.

In contrast, the scientists observed that women (who make up 54% of study participants) account for two-thirds of subjects suffering from persistent fatigue (67%).

People with a history of anxiety or depression are also more likely to suffer from fatigue. "This post-infection fatigue will have a significant impact on the quality of life of people, their employers and the health system," the researchers insist.

More research is needed

The authors agree: More research is needed to assess the long-term impact of Covid-19 on patients. According to them, "early intervention" and the use of "non-pharmacological" methods are essential to adequately manage fatigue, which differs from one patient to another.

"We are seeing increasing evidence for Long Covid, and fatigue is one of the most common side effects," says Dr. Michael Head of the University of Southampton.

"The emerging scale of protracted Covid is the reason why reducing community transmission is important, even among younger groups of people who are not immediately seriously ill," he says.

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