Results from a preliminary study out of South Korea has found that 9 out of 10 people report experiencing at least one long-term side effect after recovering from Covid-19, ranging from debilitating fatigue, lung damage, and even psychological after-effects. It’s not the first piece of research to show Covid-19 can have lingering side-effects – sometimes known as “long-Covid” – but it’s significantly higher than other previous estimates.
As Reuters reports from Seoul, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) carried out an online survey of 965 recovered Covid-19 patients and found that 879 people (91.1 percent) reported that they suffered from at least one lasting side-effect after recovering from the disease. Fatigue was the most common side-effect with over 26 percent of respondents reporting this symptom, followed by difficulty in concentration or “brain fog,” which affected 24.6 percent. Other common after-effects included psychological after-effects and loss of taste or smell.
The study is yet to be peer-reviewed, but the researchers say they are hoping to publish the study with a full detailed analysis. One current limitation to these findings is that it’s uncertain how severely ill these patients were.
As mentioned, the study’s findings suggest enduring effects are notably higher than the previous estimates. A recent study in Ireland found that just over 50 percent of patients reported persistent fatigue at an assessment 10 weeks after their recovery from Covid-19. A small study of Italian patients found that 87 percent of people hospitalized with Covid-19 were still experiencing some symptoms two months after falling sick. Another survey by the US CDC Covid-19 Response Team found that around 35 percent of symptomatic adults had not returned to their usual state of health when interviewed 2 to 3 weeks after testing positive for Covid-19.
Since Covid-19 is a novel disease, it’s not known how long it might take for these symptoms to resolve. There’s some evidence that damage to the lung, heart, and other major organs can persist for some time, and it’s unclear whether this may make people more susceptible to future diseases down the line. Equally worrying, one of the most common and debilitating long-term effects of Covid-19 – severe fatigue – is the least understood. Some tiredness after recovering from an illness can be expected, but many people are reporting profound and lasting tiredness that’s making their everyday life a misery. Many so-called "long haulers" have previously called for raising awareness of the long-lasting effects after feeling that many doctors, employers, and authorities were not acknowledging the debilitating effect of living with post-Covid fatigue.
Doctors and research scientists are still on a steep learning curve with this novel disease and many, many questions remain over why people seem to suffer from these side-effects for an unusually long-time. Unfortunately, only time and more long-term research will tell.