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What do we know about long-term impacts of COVID-19?

Update

Long-haul COVID is the phenomenon of symptoms caused by COVID-19 for several weeks or months after the initial infection began. Some of the reported persistent symptoms include fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, anxiety, and depression, palpitations, chest pains, joint or muscle pain and weakness, loss of smell, cough, low fever, headache, and cognitive dysfunction (brain fog, not being able to think straight or focus). More serious complications, although less common, include damage to the heart, lungs, kidney, and gut due to blood clots or weakened blood vessels. Early vaccine data

This article was published on
March 10, 2021

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What our experts say

Long COVID-19 or long-haul COVID-19 is a colloquial term used to describe characteristics of persistent symptoms of COVID-19 illness that last several weeks or months. Some of the reported persistent symptoms include fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, anxiety, and depression, palpitations, chest pains, joint or muscle pain and weakness, loss of smell, cough, low fever, headache, and cognitive dysfunction (brain fog, not being able to think straight or focus). More serious complications, although less common, include damage to the heart, lungs, kidney, and gut due to blood clots or weakened blood vessels. Many other long-term effects are still unknown. Several studies are underway to learn more.

Long COVID-19 has been reported in people of all ages and among anyone who was infected with SARS-CoV-2, including those who initially reported mild, medium, or severe symptoms. A specific pattern, if any, on who is at risk of long-term symptoms is yet to be known. As per the UK national COVID-19 Infection Survey, 20% of respondents who tested positive for COVID-19 showed symptoms for 5 weeks or longer and 10% of respondents who tested positive showed symptoms for 12 weeks or longer.

Context and background

Most people who have had COVID-19 related symptoms recover within two weeks. However, some people have been reporting various symptoms that have persisted for months. The reported symptoms have been very wide-ranging and in some cases reported to last over six months.

Resources

  1. COVID-19 (coronavirus): Long-term effects (Mayo Clinic)
  2. 'Long Covid': Why are some people not recovering? (BBC Health)
  3. The prevalence of long COVID symptoms and COVID-19 complications (UK Office of National Statistics)
  4. COVID-19 rapid guideline: managing the long-term effects of COVID-19 (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence - NICE)
  5. Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 (CDC)
  6. Chronic COVID syndrome: Need for an appropriate medical terminology for long‐COVID and COVID long‐haulers (Journal of Medical Virology)

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