A study focused on health care workers over the last year found that up to 1 in 10 who experienced a mild case of coronavirus was still dealing with a lingering symptom that negatively impacts their life eight months after their illness resolved. The most common complaints among the study participants were a lingering loss of smell, taste, fatigue and respiratory problems.
The study, conducted by researchers in Sweden and published in the journal JAMA, began collecting blood samples from 2,149 employees at Danderyd Hospital in the spring of 2020. About 19% of this group had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, a news release posted to EurekAlert.org said. The researchers continued collecting blood samples every four months and had participants respond to questions regarding lingering symptoms and impact on quality of life.
In January 2021, the researchers analyzed answers from 323 health care workers who reported long-term symptoms and compared it with 1,072 health care workers who did not have COVID-19 during the study period.
The analysis found 26% of those who had COVID-19 previously compared to 9% in the control group had at least one moderate to severe symptom that lasted more than two months, and that 11% compared to 2% in the control group had a minimum of one symptom that created a negative impact on work, social or home life that lasted at least eight months.
"We investigated the presence of long-term symptoms after mild COVID-19 in a relatively young and healthy group of working individuals, and we found that the predominate long-term symptoms are loss of smell and taste," Charlotte Thalin, Ph.D., lead researcher for the COMMUNITY study at Danderyd Hospital and Karolinska Institutet, said in the news release. "However, we do not see an increased prevalence of cognitive symptoms such as brain fatigue, memory and concentration problems or physical disorders such as muscle and joint pain, heart palpitations or long-term fever."
Little is known about long-term COVID, or so-called "long-haulers" but as the number of COVID-19 survivors report lingering symptoms increases more and more attention is being brought to the phenomena. Several studies, including one funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. is aiming to decipher the mechanisms behind who develops long-term COVID why.
Another recent development published by a team from The University of Oxford suggested that one in three coronavirus survivors of 236,000 individuals involved in the study were diagnosed with a neurological or psychiatric illness within six months. Anxiety and mood disorders were found to be the most common diagnoses, with those who endured a severe bout of COVID-19 considered to be most at risk.