About 30% of people infected with COVID-19 developed Long COVID, a set of symptoms that persist for months beyond the initial phase of a SARS-CoV-2 infection, according to a US study. (Also read: Which patients are most at risk of developing long-term Covid? Scientists discover)
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the US found that people with a history of hospitalization, diabetes, and a higher body mass index were more likely to develop commonly known post-acute COVID-19 sequelae (PASC). like Long COVID.
The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that ethnicity, older age, and socioeconomic status were not associated with the syndrome, although these characteristics were associated with serious illness and a higher risk of death from COVID-19.
Of the 309 people with long-term COVID studied, the most persistent symptoms were fatigue and shortness of breath (31% and 15%, respectively) in hospitalized people and loss of smell (16%) in outpatients.
“This study illustrates the need to follow diverse patient populations longitudinally to understand the trajectory of Long COVID disease and to assess how individual factors, such as pre-existing comorbidities, sociodemographic factors, vaccination status, and virus variant type, affect the type and persistence of Long COVID symptoms,” said Sun Yoo, assistant clinical professor of health sciences at UCLA.
“Studying outcomes in a single healthcare system can minimize variation in the quality of medical care,” Yoo said in a statement.
The researchers wanted to assess Long COVID’s association with demographic and clinical characteristics to devise the most effective treatments.
They studied 1,038 people enrolled in the UCLA Outpatient COVID Program between April 2020 and February 2021. Of those, 309 developed Long COVID.
A person was determined to have the syndrome if they reported persistent symptoms on questionnaires 60 or 90 days after infection or hospitalization.
Potential weaknesses in the study include the subjective nature of how patients rated their symptoms, the limited number of symptoms the researchers assessed, and limited information about patients’ pre-existing conditions.
“Because persistent symptoms can be subjective in nature, we need better tools to accurately diagnose Long COVID and differentiate it from exacerbations of other emerging or chronic conditions,” said Yoo.
“Finally, we need to ensure equitable access to Long COVID outpatient care,” added Yoo.
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