More than nine in 10 Covid-19 hospital patients suffer lingering symptoms for three months after being discharged, preliminary data has found.
The research, presented to the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) on 25 February, found that of 325 Covid survivors, 93% reported suffering at least one ‘long Covid’ symptom for three months or more after coming out of hospital, with women reporting worse outcomes.
The study from the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC) is yet to be peer reviewed – but raises concerns about the potential impact of long Covid, where coronavirus symptoms last for more than 12 weeks.
The minutes from the SAGE meeting, published last Friday, warned: ‘The long-term impact of post-Covid syndromes on the working age population is not well-understood but this may be very significant.’
Fatigue was the most common symptom (77%) followed by shortness of breath (54%), while 24% of participants reported a new disability with sight, walking, memory, self-care or communication.
Women under 50 were five times more likely than men to report incomplete recovery or a new disability, twice as likely to experience fatigue and six times more likely to feel more breathless. Younger participants were also more at risk of suffering persistent symptoms and ongoing difficulties.
The analysis also showed long Covid symptoms occur in different ‘clusters’, matching findings from a review published in October that long Covid could encompass four separate syndromes.
The SAGE minutes explained: ‘The first of these clusters includes fatigue, being breathless on exertion, headache, dizziness, muscle pain, joint pain, disturbance of balance and limb weakness.
‘The second is nested within the first and includes muscle pain, joint pain, disturbance of balance and limb weakness. The third includes loss of smell, taste, difficulty passing urine, weight loss and disturbance of appetite.’
It noted that participants overall ‘reported a drop in quality of life including greater difficulty doing their usual activities and increases in anxiety, depression and pain’.
Further work will look at people who have not been hospitalised to better understand the overall impact of long Covid, it added.
It said: ‘It will be important to have a better understanding of physiology including oxygen levels, lung function and evidence of scarring [in people who have had Covid but not been hospitilised’.