New Study Finds More Than A Third Of COVID-19 Patients Have Symptoms Months Later

A New Study Shows That More Than a Third of COVID-19 Patients have Symptoms that last months
Click to enlarge the image and toggle caption Kirsty Wigginsworth/AP Kirsty Wigginsworth/AP

A new study has found that symptoms of COVID-19 can persist or recur for months in more than a third (or more) of those who are diagnosed. This could make the number of long COVID cases even higher than previously believed.

Researchers found that 36% of patients still had COVID symptoms six months after their diagnosis in a study published in PLOS Medicine. Previous studies estimated that 10% to 30% of patients may still have symptoms from COVID.

Researchers at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom conducted the study and searched anonymized data in millions of electronic health records primarily in the United States to identify a study group of 273,618 COVID-19 patients and 114,449 influenza patients as a control.

Some patients developed symptoms months later than they had any.

Long COVID, although it is not well defined, was examined by the researchers. They looked at symptoms such as chest/throat/abnormal breathing, chest/throat pains, nausea, fatigue, brain dysfunction, cognitive dysfunction, and muscle pain.

The authors concluded that more than 1 in 3 patients had a feature of long-COVID within 3 to 6 months of a diagnosis of COVID-19.

Researchers also discovered that 40% of patients with COVID for more than three to six months had never had any symptoms during the preceding three months.

COVID symptoms that last a long time seem to be more common than flu symptoms.

Scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci (the nation's foremost infectious disease expert), warned of a post-viral syndrome in people who had recovered after COVID-19. Some scientists compared the symptoms of COVID-19 to those experienced by people with other viral infections like the flu.

The new study found that COVID symptoms can be experienced months later than with influenza.

Oxford-led researchers also discovered that those with more severe COVID-19 illnesses were more likely to develop COVID. The risk of long-term symptoms was also higher in young adults and female patients. However, the authors of the study did not find any difference between non-white and white patients.