Health & wellbeing

In a comprehensive study shedding light on the trajectory of Covid-19 symptoms over an extended period, it has been revealed that the effects of long Covid can persist for at least a year after the acute phase of the illness has subsided.

The collaborative study, conducted by UC San Francisco, the Centers for Disease Control, and seven other research sites, provides a deeper understanding of post-Covid-19 conditions by analyzing symptom trends in greater detail than previous research.

Additionally, the study underscores the profound impact the pandemic has had on the American healthcare system.

The findings have been published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), a journal of the CDC.

Among the participants in the study, approximately 16% of those who had tested positive for Covid-19 experienced symptoms that endured for a minimum of a year. However, for others, symptoms appeared, disappeared, and then resurfaced over time. The study's unique approach involved assessing symptoms every three months, allowing researchers to distinguish between symptoms that improved and those that manifested months after the initial infection.

Lead author Juan Carlos Montoy, MD, PhD, and associate professor at UCSF’s Department of Emergency Medicine, stated, “We observed a common pattern of symptoms subsiding and then re-emerging months later. While previous research often examined symptoms at isolated time points, our study reveals the trajectory of symptoms with greater clarity and detail. This suggests that measuring symptoms at a single time point could potentially underestimate or misrepresent the actual disease burden.”

Understanding the Fluctuating Nature of Long Covid:

Long Covid encompasses a spectrum of symptoms that persist or develop around a month after the initial infection. These symptoms can significantly impact patients' quality of life and overall well-being.

The research study included 1,741 participants, with a majority being female, who sought Covid-19 testing at eight prominent healthcare systems across the United States. While three-quarters tested positive for Covid-19, those who tested negative might have experienced a different type of infection due to their symptom presentation. Common symptoms included fatigue, runny nose, headache, sore throat, shortness of breath, chest pain, diarrhea, forgetfulness, and cognitive difficulties.

Initially, Covid-positive participants were more likely to experience symptoms across various categories. However, by the end of the year-long study period, there was no significant difference between those who tested positive and those who tested negative for Covid-19.

Juan Carlos Montoy remarked, “We were taken aback by the striking similarity in symptom patterns between the Covid-positive and Covid-negative groups. This observation implies that the burden following a Covid infection might be substantial, but it also raises the possibility that other non-Covid illnesses could have a similarly profound impact. We have much to learn about the post-illness processes for Covid and other medical conditions."