2 years later, Covid-19 recovery eludes at least half of early Wuhan patients: Study

Full recovery has remained elusive for people who suffered through the virus's first wave. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (BLOOMBERG) - Two years after being hospitalised with Covid-19, more than half of patients still experience symptoms like fatigue and sleep disruption, according to a study that underscores the pandemic's lasting burden.

Full recovery has remained elusive for people who suffered through the virus's first wave, meaning patients had poorer health than the general population and required more attention from health-care services, according to a study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

The findings bring home the challenge of dealing with Covid-19's aftermath as millions of people - some of them children and teens - grapple with lingering symptoms that affect everything from mental health to their ability to work and contribute to the economy.

The study, led by doctors at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, comes as China doubles down on its stringent Covid Zero strategy while much of the world lifts restrictions and attempts to live with the virus.

Original strain

Though no one knows yet what causes the constellation of symptoms that afflict a proportion of people after a SARS-CoV-2 infection, the research is probably the lengthiest follow-up to date. And while it could provide insight to add to doctors' understanding, the patients involved had the original strain of the virus rather than variants now in circulation.

The scientists followed 1,192 people hospitalised with Covid-19 at Wuhan's Jin Yin-tan hospital in early 2020, checking in with them six months, 12 months and two years after their symptoms began. The participants' median age was 57, and more than half were men. In the study, their ability to walk six minutes was assessed, they underwent lab tests and they answered questionnaires about symptoms, mental health and quality of life. Some also had their pulmonary function checked and received chest imaging at each visit.

The results suggest time helped to some degree. After six months, 68 per cent of study participants reported at least one symptom of long Covid. By two years, the reports had fallen to 55 per cent. The scientists wrote that they intend to keep following up on the patients once a year.

"The negative effect on quality of life, exercise capacity, and health-care utilisation highlights the importance of studying the pathogenesis of long Covid and promoting the exploration of targeted treatment to manage or alleviate the condition," they wrote.

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