Who’s at risk for ‘long COVID’? Study suggests most vulnerable

Instances of so-called “long COVID,” where it may take months to recover from the novel coronavirus, are occurring frequently enough to warrant several studies on the condition, including one that claims to identify risk factors that would make it more likely for a patient to suffer from it.

Researchers at the U.K.’s King’s College London analyzed symptoms of 4,182 coronavirus patients who had logged their illness using a COVID Symptom Study app. They noted 558 of the patients saw symptoms last longer than 28 days, 189 suffer for over eight weeks, and 95 patients with symptoms that lasted longer than 12 weeks.

The researchers found that among the long-COVID patients, symptoms were most commonly listed as fatigue, headache, dyspnea and anosmia, and were more likely to occur in older patients, those with a higher BMI and in patients who were female.

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Experiencing more than five symptoms during the first week of diagnosis was also linked to long COVID. Long-COVID patients were also more likely to report heart symptoms and trouble concentrating, according to an article accompanying the study. They were also twice as likely to report symptoms coming back after recovering.

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While the study has yet to undergo peer-review, the researchers said they were able to use the information to develop a model that can predict who may go on to develop long COVID following a positive test. They believe it will help develop an early intervention strategy among this patient population.

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“COVID-19 is a mild illness for many, but for one in 50 symptoms can persist for longer than 12 weeks,” Tim Spector, COVID Symptom Study lead and professor of Genetic Epidemiology from King’s College London, said in an accompanying article. “So it’s important that, as well as worrying about excess deaths, we also need to consider those who will be affected by long COVID if we don’t get the pandemic under control soon. As we wait for a vaccine, it is vital that we all work together to stem the spread of coronavirus via lifestyle changes and more rigorous self-isolating with symptoms or positive tests.”