Long COVID: Wuhan patients still have symptoms two years later
Two years after COVID-19 infection, over half of people hospitalised are still experiencing at least one symptom, according to the longest follow-up study so far.
- 13 May 2022
- 2 min read
- by Priya Joi
What is the research about?
Soon after COVID-19 emerged, after the initial flurry trying to understand this new respiratory disease, it became clear that for many people, symptoms were persisting long after recovery from the main infection. Long COVID is still relatively new and not enough is known about exactly what triggers it and why some people get it and others don’t. Estimating the numbers of people with Long COVID is tricky, but an estimated 10-30% of those who contract the disease get the condition.
Two years on, more than half – 55% – still reported symptoms, with fatigue or muscle weakness being the most common. In addition, after two years, 11% had not been able to return to work.
What did the researchers do?
This study published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine assessed the health of 1,192 participants who had been hospitalised for COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, between 7 January and 29 May 2020. As the virus was first discovered in Wuhan, these patients would be among some of the first people to be infected with COVID-19. The average age was 57 at discharge. The team evaluated their health at six months, 12 months and two years, noting symptoms, questioning them on their mental and physical wellbeing, and asking them to take a six-minute walking test.
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What did they find?
Six months post-infection, 68% of the patients had at least one COVID-19 symptom. Two years on, more than half – 55% – still reported symptoms, with fatigue or muscle weakness being the most common. In addition, after two years, 11% had not been able to return to work.
What does this mean?
Chronic post-viral conditions have already been seen with other coronaviruses such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS-CoV but Long Covid has received more attention and study than these. So far, the longest targeted study of Long Covid has followed people for around a year; this research indicates that people with Long Covid need follow-up for several years to come, as they may be managing the impact on their health conditions well after the pandemic wanes.
Lead author, Prof Bin Cao, of the China-Japan Friendship hospital said, “There is a clear need to provide continued support to a significant proportion of people who’ve had COVID-19, and to understand how vaccines, emerging treatments and variants affect long-term health outcomes.”