Study identifies people most at risk for "prolonged COVID"

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A new study, using data from the COVID Symptom Study app, shows that one in 20 people with COVID-19 is likely to experience symptoms for eight weeks or more - the so-called "Covid long." The researchers also wanted to determine the symptoms and factors that suggested such a situation.

For some COVID-19 patients, the onset of symptoms is the beginning of a long battle. This disease is very recent and therefore not well understood yet, but studies report that some patients who have had an infection confirmed by an RT-PCR test continue to have symptoms weeks or even months later.

To date, the precise nature of the symptoms of "prolonged Covid" and its impact on the lives of patients are still not well understood. That is why AP-HP announced in early October the launch of a "Compare" cohort on the long-term consequences of COVID-19 to identify the different manifestations of this "Long Covid".

In England, researchers from Kings College London conducted a study to identify the first signs of a person with COVID-19 that they will not recover immediately.

The study, pending peer review, involved examining more than 4,000 coronavirus patients by asking them to record their symptoms through the COVID Symptom Study app. About 20% said they still did not feel better after 4 weeks, at which point it is a long Covid case. At 8 weeks, about 190 patients reported persistent symptoms, and at 12 weeks, nearly 100 patients said they had not yet recovered.

Age, the first factor to take into account

The scientific team found that older people, women, and people with more different symptoms during the first week of their illness were more likely to develop long-term COVID. Specifically, people with long-standing COVID more frequently reported heart symptoms (palpitations or rapid heartbeat), as well as numbness and trouble concentrating (mental confusion). They were also twice as likely to report that their symptoms returned after recovery (relapse) compared to those with brief COVID (16% vs 8.4%).

Extrapolating these data to the general UK population, the scientific team estimated that one in seven people with symptomatic COVID-19 would be ill for at least 4 weeks, one in 20 for 8 weeks, and one in 45 for 12 weeks or more. According to them, age, gender and BMI could predict COVID cases in the long term. Thus, the most important predictor for a prolonged COVID case turns out to be age: about 22% of participants aged 70 and over reported long-term symptoms, compared with 10% of those aged 18 to 49 years. People with a higher body mass index (BMI) were also at higher risk.

Young women are also at higher risk

Additionally, women were twice as likely to experience long-term COVID as men, but only in the youngest age group. The researchers also found that people with asthma were more likely to develop COVID in the long term, although there is no clear link to other underlying health problems. Finally, in general, patients who presented more than five symptoms during the first week of illness were more likely to develop a prolonged COVID, regardless of sex and age group. The most suggestive symptoms would be fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, hoarse voice and body aches.

This research is important because researchers believe it could be used to help guide early interventions to prevent and treat this disease. "COVID-19 is a mild illness for many, but it can persist for more than 12 weeks. Therefore, it is important to consider the cases that will be affected by a prolonged COVID if we do not quickly control the pandemic. While we wait for a vaccine , it is vital that we work together to stop the spread of coronavirus through lifestyle changes and more rigorous self-isolation in case of positive symptoms or tests, "concludes Professor Tim Spector, head of the study.

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