Persistent Symptoms in One Third of COVID-19 Cases


Even as knowledge about SARS-COV-2 has considerably improved, several aspects remain unknown.

The variety and duration of the coronavirus disease 2019’s (COVID-19) symptoms have long been unpredictable for healthcare professionals. The illness appears to have potentially long-lasting symptoms, which is unusual for a virus of its kind. There have been reports of people continuing to experience them for several weeks following an infection.

Recently, a team of investigators from the University of Geneva, the General Health Directorate of the State of Geneva and the University Hospitals of Geneva have published a study where they followed people who were diagnosed with a SARS-CoV-2 infection but did not require hospitalization, finding that 33% of them still reported some type of symptom resulting from COVID-19.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, analyzed 669 participants with a mean age of 43 years old, who had no underlying risk factors associated with COVID-19. At 6 weeks after their diagnosis, nearly a third of them reported COVID-19 related symptoms like persistent cough (3%), shortness of breath (9%), loss of taste or smell (12%) and fatigue (14%).

"In addition to the physical distress of their symptoms, many were very worried: how much longer would it last? Were some after-effects irrecoverable?” Mayssam Nehme, first author on the study said. “Even without a clear medical answer, in the current state of knowledge, it is important to accompany concerned patients and to listen to them."

The study demonstrates that persisting symptoms must be recognized, so that the legitimate concerns of patients may be validated. Being faced with an unknown and novel disease, it can be difficult to optimize their management of the symptoms. Hoping to provide assistance, the HUG has set up specific consultation for patients who are experiencing long-term symptoms.

"This requires an information campaign towards the general public and healthcare workers, but also, more broadly, among employers, insurance companies and society in general,” Nehme wrote. “Everyone should realize that previously healthy people can also be affected by COVID-19, weeks or even months following the infection. Prevention is therefore of the utmost importance."

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