Covid symptoms can last for up to six months, based on a study released in the medical journal The Lancet.
The researchers examined 1,733 Covid-19 patients in hospitals in Wuhan, China from last January to May. Many were brought to the hospital even before the illness was labeled.
Findings showed that three-quarters of the patients manifested Covid symptoms six months following their initial diagnosis. Sixty-three percent noted they still experienced fatigue or muscle weakness, 23 percent mentioned anxiety or depression, and 26 percent reported trouble sleeping.
“Our analysis indicates that most patients continue to live with at least some of the effects of the virus after leaving the hospital, and highlights a need for post-discharge care,” Dr. Bin Cao, an author of the study and vice-director of the Center for Respiratory Diseases at China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, said in a statement.
However, this was an observational study, meaning linking those symptoms directly to the coronavirus is not feasible. In order to reveal a connection, studies have to compare outcomes of Covid-19 to those experiencing similar infections that could also lead to pneumonia.
“I would have liked to have seen data on patients admitted with something other than Covid-19 during that period,” said Dr. Hana El Sahly, an associate professor of molecular virology and microbiology and of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She was not involved in the new research.
“Being admitted with pneumonia can be a traumatic event for anyone,” El Sahly said, adding that it’s not uncommon for those patients to have lingering symptoms.
Data showed that those with the most severe cases had difficulty breathing six months later. More than half who needed a ventilator for their illness later suffered from a condition that limits oxygen flow from the lungs into the bloodstream. With this, they were more likely to experience difficulty completing a test of walking endurance.
However, it is not certain whether that impaired lung function is caused by the virus or related to an underlying health condition. While the study participants were in the hospital, few were admitted to the intensive care unit, meaning the findings may not be relevant to the sickest patients.
“Because Covid-19 is such a new disease, we are only beginning to understand some of its long-term effects on patients’ health,” Cao said. He noted that the study could help emphasize a need for increased care for Covid-19 patients even after they are discharged from the hospital.
In June, a Dutch study showed that a vast majority of individuals with coronavirus symptoms said they still suffer health problems such as extreme fatigue or shortness of breath nearly three months later. The study investigated 1,600 people with Covid symptoms, 91% of whom were never hospitalized. Their average age was 53.
“These people reported that they still had symptoms — shortness of breath, cough, headache, intermittent fevers, brain fog, trouble concentrating, chest pain, palpitations, things like that — that continued for months and months and months,” emergency care physician Dr. Ron Elfenbein said on CBSN.
“The scary part about this is that when they looked at these people, 85% of them considered themselves healthy before this happened, and afterward, only 6% reported they were healthy, so these are like everyday people that had no medical problems.”