Half of COVID-19 Patients Suffer Long-Term Effects

  • By Sun Jung-min

    October 18, 2022 12:55

    Almost half of recovered COVID-19 patients suffer from long-term aftereffects such as an inability to focus, insomnia and muscle aches for up to a year and a half, according to a study.
    One out of every five complained of crippling "long COVID" symptoms like difficulty doing housework, walking, studying and other everyday activities.
    Researchers at the University of Glasgow published the study in the scientific journal "Nature Communications." Since April 2020, they surveyed around 30,000 COVID patients six, 12 and 18 months after infection and compared their symptoms with around 60,000 others who had not been infected.
    Six percent said they have yet to recover, while 42 percent said they recovered only partially and 48 percent experienced side effects six to 18 months after recovery. Some 25.2 percent experienced difficulties exercising, while 19.6 percent suffered from problems working, studying and doing household chores. Some 18.4 percent complained about difficulty walking and around 10 percent said they were prevented from socializing and leisure activities.
    Aftereffects varied from aching muscles and joints, headaches, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, fatigue, nervousness, difficulty focusing, insomnia and loss of smell and taste.
    Recovered patients who suffered from respiratory illness or depression before infection found their symptoms worsened, while those who had no symptoms were less affected. The aftereffects were more commonly found in women, senior citizens and the poor.
    Researchers in the U.K. and U.S., which saw huge numbers of COVID cases during the early phase of the coronavirus pandemic, are now focusing on the impact of long COVID.
    The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that between 7.7 million to 23 million Americans are suffering from long COVID and up to 1 million have been unable to return to work. A government report showed 31,000 people in Australia take sick leave every day due to perceived aftereffects.
    In Korea, a study of around 10,000 people is underway. According to the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, 54,463 people went to hospital with COVID aftereffects from October of 2020 to July of this year.
    But vaccination levels in Korea were higher than in other countries, and more than 90 percent of infected people caught the Omicron variant, which is milder than the Delta variant.
    A study in Seoul's Jungnang district found that people who recovered from Omicron strain coughed more than those with the Delta variant but did not suffer from severe symptoms like loss of hair, smell or taste.
    Long COVID refers to symptoms that last more than three months after recovery and cannot be explained by other causes. The problem is that it cannot be clearly diagnosed in many cases.
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