One in ten has problems with long-term covid
Eight months after mild COVID-19, one in ten people still has at least one moderate to severe symptom that is perceived as having a negative impact on their work, social or home life. The most common long-term symptoms are a loss of smell and taste and fatigue. This is according to a new study conducted by researchers at Uppsala University, Danderyd Hospital and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.
Since spring 2020, researchers at Uppsala University, Danderyd Hospital and Karolinska Institutet have conducted the so-called COMMUNITY study, with the main purpose of examining immunity after COVID-19. In the first phase of the study in spring 2020, blood samples were collected from 2,149 employees at Danderyd Hospital, of whom about 19 percent had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. Blood samples have since then been collected every four months, and study participants have responded to questionnaires regarding long-term symptoms and their impact on the quality of life.
In the third follow-up in January 2021, the research team examined self-reported presence of long-term symptoms and their impact on work, social and home life for participants who had had mild COVID-19 at least eight months earlier. This group consisted of 323 healthcare workers (83 percent women, median age 43 years) and was compared with 1,072 healthcare workers (86 percent women, median age 47 years) who did not have COVID-19 throughout the study period.
Loss of smell and taste most predominant
The results show that 26 percent of those who had COVID-19 previously, compared to 9 percent in the control group, had at least one moderate to severe symptom that lasted more than two months and that 11 percent, compared to 2 percent in the control group, had a minimum of one symptom with negative impact on work, social or home life that lasted at least eight months. The most common long-term symptoms were loss of smell and taste, fatigue, and respiratory problems.
The COMMUNITY study will now continue, with the next follow-up taking place in May when a large proportion of study participants are expected to be vaccinated. In addition to monitoring immunity and the occurrence of re-infection, several projects regarding post- COVID are planned.
The study is funded by the Jonas & Christina af Jochnick Foundation, Leif Lundblad with family, Region Stockholm, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, SciLifeLab, the Erling-Persson Family Foundation, and Atlas Copco.
“Symptoms and Functional Impairment Assessed 8 Months After Mild COVID-19 Among Health Care Workers”, Sebastian Havervall, Axel Rosell, Mia Phillipson, Sara M. Mangsbo, Peter Nilsson, Sophia Hober, Charlotte Thålin. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, online 7 April 2021, doi: 10.1001/jama.2021.5612.