One in 20 COVID-19 cases reports long-term symptoms


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Five percent of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in NSW’s “first wave” still had symptoms three months later, according to Australia’s largest COVID-19 recovery time study ever.

The study, a collaboration between UNSW Sydney and NSW Health and published in The Lancet Regional Health — Western Pacific newspaper today, also found that young people, men and those without comorbidities generally recover faster.

Using the New South Wales Disease Notification Registry, linked health data sets and telephone interviews with those infected, the in-depth study systematically followed 2,904 people, almost all (94%) diagnosed with COVID-19 in New South Wales between January and May 2020.

The whole population study is likely to provide more accurate estimates of the proportion of people who will experience long-term effects from COVID-19 than previous smaller studies. Many of these studies have been limited to volunteers or people hospitalized with the virus, and some have brought the proportion of people experiencing long-term effects closer to 30%.

According to the study published today, three months after being diagnosed with COVID-19, 93.4% of those followed had recovered, most (80%) within 30 days, 1.8% had died and 4.8% still had symptoms. Among those who had still not recovered by the time of their last interview, the most frequently reported residual symptoms were cough and fatigue.

“We know a lot about the acute clinical presentations where people end up in the hospital, but a lot less about those who contract less severe forms of the disease,” said UNSW Associate Professor Dr Bette Liu, main author of the report.

“Our data demonstrates the substantial direct impact of COVID-19 on the health of the population – and the need to consider not only hospitalizations and deaths, but also the longer-term health of people with less severe forms. of disease. “

With over 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia so far, “this study indicates that prolonged recovery from COVID-19 appears to be a significant problem for many Australians,” said A / Prof. Liu.

“It is well known that the severity of COVID-19 increases with age and with the prevalence of other underlying illnesses or health conditions, so it is not surprising that we have found that recovery is slower. and less likely in these groups “, A / Prof. Liu said.

Younger people think they would recover quickly from COVID-19, A / Prof. Liu said. “Although our study showed that young people recovered faster, even among those under 30, we found that 2% still had symptoms three months after diagnosis.

“This study demonstrates how important it is that we all protect ourselves against COVID-19 by following public health advice, including hand hygiene, physical distancing and testing, as well as getting vaccinated when it’s your turn. ”

One-fifth of asymptomatic COVID patients develop long-term COVID: study

More information:
Bette Liu et al, Population-wide cohort study of COVID-19 recovery time in New South Wales, Australia, The Lancet Regional Health – Western Pacific (2021). DOI: 10.1016 / j.lanwpc.2021.100193

Provided by the University of New South Wales

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