If the pandemic is officially over (the World Health Organization declared it just over a month ago), the same cannot be said of Long Covid, the effects of which continue to be seen in many healed. More than one in three people say they have perceived cognitive deficits 30 days after infection and some of these patients have experienced symptoms of Long Covid, i.e. ailments that last for over four months. The correlation is significant, according to a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles, published in Jama Network Open.
Among the symptoms of Long Covid is cognitive impairment, the so-called “brain fog”, which can be associated with memory problems, trouble concentrating and stress disorder. Anxiety and depression are also frequent. American researchers analyzed data from a survey on cognitive deficits related to Covid, evaluating the association with the development of Long Covid, on 766 patients hospitalized or in home treatment for Sars-CoV-2 infection between April 2020 and February 2021. Participants answered a questionnaire on cognitive problems and symptoms of Long Covid at 30, 60 and 90 days after hospital discharge or confirmation of positivity. It transpired that there is a strong association between perceived deficits within the first four weeks of infection and Long Covid symptoms. One month after infection or hospitalization, 42.8% of patients with cognitive impairment reported symptoms of Long Covid compared with 21.4% of patients without impairment. The researchers also observed an association between the perceived impairment and previous intellectual difficulties, diagnoses of depressive disorders and anxiety.
Risks for the unvaccinated
Long Covid is also the subject of another study published in British Medical Journalaccording to which one in six people not vaccinated against Covid complains of health effects up to two years after infection. “Most people infected with Sars-CoV-2 recover soon after the initial stage of the disease, others have persistent health problems, called ‘Long Covid’, which can impact quality of life and ability to work” said Tala Ballouz of the University of Zurich, lead author of the paper. The researchers examined the persistence of symptoms over two years in 1,106 unvaccinated adults (mean age 50) infected with Sars-CoV-2 confirmed between August 2020 and January 2021 and used as a control group 628 adults (mean age 65 years) randomly selected from the population who had not had the virus. The researchers obtained information on around twenty Long Covid symptoms at 6, 12, 18 and 24 months after infection. Other potentially influential factors were considered, including age, gender, education, occupation, and pre-existing health problems.
Problems that persist
Overall, 55% of participants reported being fully healed less than a month after infection and 18% reported recovering within 1-3 months. 23% of participants said they still had not recovered at six months, at 12 months the percentage dropped to 19% and at 24 months to 17%. Compared to people who had not had the infection, those recovered from Sars-CoV-2 showed alteration of taste or smell (9.8%), malaise after exertion (9.4%), shortness of breath (7 .8%) and mental health problems, such as impaired concentration (8.3%) and anxiety (4%), at six months after illness. People who reported symptoms at all follow-ups or more severe complaints were, on average, older and had pre-existing health problems. “More clinical trials will be needed to establish effective interventions to reduce the post-Covid burden,” the authors conclude. In a related editorial to the study, Qiao Wu of the University of Southern California (Los Angeles) says understanding symptom trends and recovery from Long Covid is critical for policy making, treatment decisions and care coordination .