Explainer: What is a long COVID?

Medical workers treat patients suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Batajnica COVID-19 hospital in Belgrade, Serbia, on October 4, 2021. - REUTERS
Medical workers treat patients suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Batajnica COVID-19 hospital in Belgrade, Serbia, on October 4, 2021. – REUTERS
  • The WHO issues a definition of protracted COVID, however scientists are still working to understand the syndrome.
  • Prolonged COVID is a condition with at least one symptom that usually begins within 3 months of the onset of confirmed coronavirus infection.
  • Symptoms can begin during infection or appear for the first time after the patient has recovered from an acute illness.

NEW YORK: The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a definition of “protracted COVID,” a term used to describe persistent health problems affecting some survivors of COVID-19.

However, scientists are still working to understand the syndrome. This is what they know so far.

How does the WHO define protracted COVID?

The WHO defines prolonged COVID as a condition with at least one symptom that generally begins within three months of the onset of confirmed or probable infection with the coronavirus, persists for at least two months, and cannot be explained by another diagnosis.

Symptoms can begin during infection or appear for the first time after the patient has recovered from an acute illness.

The most common persistent symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, and cognitive problems. Others include chest pain, smell or taste problems, muscle weakness, and heart palpitations. Prolonged COVID generally has an impact on daily functioning.

The WHO definition may change as new evidence emerges and the understanding of the consequences of COVID-19 continues to evolve. A separate definition may apply for children, the agency said.

How common is long-term COVID?

The exact number of people affected is unknown. An Oxford University study of more than 270,000 COVID-19 survivors found at least one long-term symptom in 37%, with symptoms more frequent among people who had required hospitalization.

A separate Harvard University study involving more than 52,000 COVID-19 survivors whose infections had been only mild or asymptomatic suggests that long-term COVID conditions may more often affect patients younger than 65.

So far, more than 236 million infections caused by the coronavirus have been reported, according to a Reuters bill.

What else do studies show about long-term COVID symptoms?

In a study published in The Lancet, Chinese researchers reported that 12 months after leaving the hospital, between 20% and 30% of patients who had been moderately ill and up to 54% of those who were critically ill still had problems. pulmonary.

The Harvard study also found that new diagnoses of diabetes and neurological disorders are more common among those with a history of COVID-19 than among those without the infection.

Are people recovering from prolonged COVID?

Many symptoms of prolonged COVID resolve over time, regardless of the severity of the initial COVID-19 illness. The proportion of patients still experiencing at least one symptom dropped from 68% at six months to 49% at 12 months, according to the study published in The Lancet.

The WHO said prolonged COVID symptoms can change over time and return after showing initial improvement.

Do COVID-19 Vaccines Help With Long-term COVID?

Small studies have suggested that some people with long-term COVID experienced an improvement in their symptoms after being vaccinated. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more research is needed to determine the effects of vaccination on post-COVID conditions.

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