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The lingering symptoms of post-COVID-19 condition (long-COVID): a prospective cohort study.

Internal Medicine Journal 2023 November 27
BACKGROUND: Longer-term symptoms (long COVID) may be present in seemingly recovered patients for several months and can be debilitating.

AIM: To investigate the prevalence and type of symptoms in those with a prior COVID-19 diagnosis.

METHODS: This prospective, longitudinal observational study commenced in July 2020 investigating the longer-term health impacts of COVID-19. Participants were recruited via public health units and media publicity. Surveys were completed upon enrolment, and at 1, 3, 6 and 12 months. Outcome measures included incidence of activity limitations and symptoms against health and vaccination status, age and gender.

RESULTS: Overall, 339 participants were recruited. At 3 months after COVID-19, 66.8% reported symptoms, and 44.8% were still experiencing symptoms at 12 months. Fatigue was most common at every point (between 53.1% and 33.1%). Pain symptoms increased in relative prevalence over time, whereas respiratory/pulmonary-type symptoms decreased substantially after 3 months. Females and younger people were more likely to experience symptoms in the early stages of long COVID (P < 0.01) and those with more comorbidities in the latter stages (P < 0.001). Vaccination showed a statistically significant protective effect against symptoms (P < 0.01-0.001).

CONCLUSION: Long-term COVID-19 symptoms exist among recovered patients up to 12 months after contracting the virus. Fatigue is a primary contributor, while chronic pain became more problematic after 6 months. Vaccination was a factor in preventing long-term symptoms and aiding faster recovery from symptoms. Further work exploring additional contributors to symptom prevalence would assist in developing appropriate follow-up care.

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