Covid: 50% of people have sequelae for more than a year, says Fiocruz | coronavirus

Covid-19: Half of patients have sequelae that can last more than a year, shows an unprecedented study by Fiocruz
Reproduction: BBC News Brazil

Covid-19: Half of patients have sequelae that can last more than a year, shows an unprecedented study by Fiocruz

An unprecedented survey carried out by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, in Minas Gerais (Fiocruz Minas), points out that half of the people diagnosed with Covid-19 have symptoms related to the infection for a period that exceeds one year. The research was published this week in the journal “Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene”.

The institution followed 646 patients, aged between 18 and 91 years, of both sexes. The survey shows that the vast majority of those involved had not had vaccines before the analysis. Of the study, only five had completed the vaccination course before the analysis.

Of the total group, 324 (50.2%) had sequelae of coronavirus infection within 14 months of diagnosis. To assess the health status of these patients, the institution used a list of 23 symptoms to classify what may be involved with the disease so long after its diagnosis. These are frames that the World Health Organization (WHO) characterizes as “long Covid”. In such cases, symptoms related to the infection are noticed three months after contact with the disease and last for at least two months.

In the case of the Fiocruz study, the most common problem among the evaluated patients is fatigue, with 35.6% of the participants reporting related problems. Persistent cough appears soon after (34%). A quarter of the participants (26.5%) reported having trouble breathing, another 20.1% lost their sense of smell or taste; there are also those who notice frequent headaches, 17.3%. It is worth saying: patients can report more than one symptom at a time.

Other serious diseases were also detected in this group: thrombosis, for example, was diagnosed in 20 patients evaluated by Fiocruz Minas. A rate that corresponds to 6.2% of the people interviewed for the study.

“The number of participants with long-term Covid-19 was a surprise throughout the study. Many report difficulty maintaining routines common to the time before the disease. Lack of concentration, lack of disposition. It is something that directly impacts quality of life. of these people”, says Rafaella Fortini, immunologist and coordinator of the work.

The symptoms, therefore, are not restricted to the physical aspect of the patients. There are also reports of impairment in mental health. Insomnia (8%), anxiety (7.1%) and dizziness (5.6%), for example, are among the complaints that involve psychic worsening.

Fortini also explains that in most cases the presence of this symptom is maintained for a time that exceeds the initial 14 months – a cut-off period for this first phase of the study. Therefore, researchers want to continue monitoring cases to see how far the impact of Covid-19 goes. So far, only five symptoms have disappeared in a shorter period of time than 14 months. They are: redness of the skin and eyes, thrombosis (under medical treatment), anxiety (with treatment in some cases) and insomnia.

The long-term Covid, however, does not seem to leave out those who presented mild and asymptomatic forms of the infection. Of the total number of study participants who had mild cases of Covid-19, 59.3% had lasting symptoms. Among those who had median cases, 74.5% and among the severe ones, 33.1% continued to suffer from the effect of the disease for a long period.

“This rate of people with mild conditions, but with long Covid is quite surprising. That’s why we reinforce that, in the face of health changes, the person seeks medical attention to monitor their condition”, says the researcher.

How the study was done

The analysis followed patients who visited Hospital da Baleia and Hospital Metropolitano Doutor Célio de Castro, both in Belo Horizonte. All of them arrived at the hospital through the emergency department between April 2020 and March 2021. The entire group underwent an RT-PCR test – the most reliable – which was positive for Covid-19.

Over 14 months, patients were monitored monthly through face-to-face meetings with specialists and, when this was not possible, using an online platform. The study is expected to continue over the next few months—as long as the patients’ symptoms last.

“Long Covid is a new health problem and we need to be aware of its appearance, learn about its pathophysiology (the nature of its changes in the body). Only then can we deal with it”, says Rafaella Fortini.

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