Long COVID study looks at why some can’t shake dizziness, fatigue and more

Authors: Helena Oliviero, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia residents among thousands needed for a massive study to discover how the virus causes lingering symptoms.

Back in the summer of 2020, when the pandemic was still new and hospitals were overflowing, Emory Healthcare opened a facility to treat a perplexing group of COVID-19 survivors.

The patients had withstood the virus’s initial onslaught but couldn’t shake some of the symptoms.

At the time, Dr. Alex Truong thought the long COVID clinic might be needed for a year, maybe two.

But long COVID — a mysterious constellation of ailments that can go on for many weeks or months — has become a bigger problem than Truong could have ever imagined.

In the U.S. alone, 1 in 5 of the adults stricken with COVID-19 have developed conditions that could be considered long COVID, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms range from brain fog and unrelenting fatigue to gastric and cardiac issues. Among those 65 and older, the estimates are even higher — 1 in 4.

That translates into millions of Americans and more than 300,000 Georgians.

Other estimates vary wildly. There is no test for long COVID. No official statistics exist.

Clinicians at the Emory clinic have treated more than 1,000 COVID survivors. There’s now a four-month waiting list to be seen at the clinic.ExploreComplete coverage of COVID-19 in Georgia

“It’s been shocking,” said Truong, who is co-director of the clinic,located at Emory University Hospital Midtown. “I’ve never seen, with other infections, such widespread, all-over-the-body symptoms for this long.”

COVID can wreak havoc on a person’s body and damage organs – the lungs, heart, kidneys and liver. Experts worry that people who are infected multiple times have increased chances of developing long COVID.

How is long COVID defined?

A recent CDC study says that 1 in 5 of U.S. adults stricken with COVID-19 have developed conditions that could be considered long COVID, which the agency defines as symptoms lasting at least four weeks after infection.

The CDC says the following symptoms are the most common for this complex and poorly understood condition:

  • Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Headache
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Digestive issues
  • Joint or muscle pain

“With COVID, we tend to think about the hospitalizations and deaths, and then we kind of stop there sometimes,” said Dr. Tiffany Walker, who has treated long COVID patients at Grady Memorial Hospital. “I don’t want to paint the picture of everybody’s debilitated, but some people are, and it’s people that don’t expect it. The times that people have cried in my office because they’re just so overwhelmed is like more than anything I’ve experienced before in clinical practice.”

Walker now leads a long COVID study at Grady, which is part of a massive National Institutes of Health effort to find the connection between seemingly unrelated symptoms that have afflicted patients and confounded physicians.

Scientists still do not know how the virus triggers such a wide range of problems, from minor to incapacitating, or why issues emerge in some patients but not in others, or what exactly the risk factors are for developing them.

What’s more, there is no specific treatment for longCOVID. Instead, the current approach is to deal with each symptom individually.

It’s often hard to offer satisfying answers to patients. “It’s just very upsetting and really challenging,” Walker said. “As a physician, you really want to be able to provide a prognosis at least, at a minimum to be able to express to them, this is what you can expect.”

But doctors “don’t know enough to know what the course is going to be and who’s going to get better and who isn’t, and you don’t know enough about how to treat those that aren’t getting better,” she said.

And the world’s leading health organizations don’t even have a standard definition of what constitutes long COVID, Truong said. The CDC defines long COVID, which it calls Post-COVID Conditions, as symptoms lasting four weeks or longer after infection. The World Health Organization says people cross over into long COVID after symptoms persist for at least three months.

In 2021, 60% of patients at the Emory and Grady long COVID clinics enrolled in a study aimed at gathering more information on the illness. At the time of their enrollment, patients had already been dealing with COVID symptoms for an average of 107 days.

Even people who have mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 infections can have new health problems crop up months after they’ve tested negative.

Remaining vigilant

The CDC’s study evaluated electronic medical records for nearly 2 million people. The agency compared those who had been infected with the coronavirus and those who had not. The analysis found 38% percent of the COVID patients developed one or more new health problems, compared to 16% percent of the non-COVID patients. The health problems of about 21% of the younger COVID patients in the study, those ages 18 to 64, and nearly 27% of the older people, 65 and up, could be attributed to long COVID. The study did not look at vaccination status.

A growing number of studies suggest that getting a COVID vaccine can reduce — though not eliminate — the risk of longer-term symptoms.

Some experts think that today’s omicron strains pose a lower risk for long COVID than previous variants. But they caution: Even if omicron is less likely to cause long-lasting symptoms, particularly for people who have been vaccinated, the actual number of long COVID sufferers will still grow due to the high infection rate.

It’s often hard to determine whether health problems that emerge after a case of COVID are truly triggered by the virus.

Lead Nurse Practitioner Lori Reed, who works at the Piedmont Pulmonary COVID Recovery clinic, said some patients dealing with preexisting conditions may be more aware of them after coronavirus infections. That means it’s important for clinicians to obtain thorough medical histories to pinpoint when symptoms, such as dizziness, memory loss and headaches, started and when they worsened, she said.

“One that comes up all the time is asthma because asthma can develop at any point in life,” Reed said. “We know, historically, viral illnesses can cause asthma onset, so COVID can cause asthma onset. But, with women, hormonal changes and menopause can also cause onset.”

Reed recommends patients see a doctor after a COVID infection to rule out COVID-related damage to the body, and she urges people to remain vigilant of any sign of new problems.ExploreFrom November: Georgia long-COVID patients fight for benefits, legitimacy

“Pay attention to subtle things that some people may write off,” she said. “Talk to your doctor about brain fog or things like, ‘I just forgot what I was going to make for dinner,’ or ‘You know, that bill came in, and I forgot to pay for it.’”

At long COVID clinics, a team of specialists — cardiologists, pulmonologists, neurologists, psychiatrists and others — work together to treat patients. Often, the patients undergo a comprehensive evaluation, including a series of lab tests and imaging tests, to rule out other undiagnosed medical conditions.

Lacking established therapies for long COVID symptoms, doctors often rely on approaches that have been used for other ailments with similar symptoms.

“It’s been shocking. I’ve never seen, with other infections, such widespread, all-over-the-body symptoms for this long.”

– Dr. Alex Truong, co-director of Emory Healthcare’s post-COVID clinic

Neurological stimulants such as Adderall have shown to be effective at improving energy and focus. Albuterol, an inhaled medicine frequently used to treat asthma, can improve breathing. Other medications, physical therapy and cognitive programs also can be helpful.

“I would say to people who get COVID, you didn’t ask to get COVID, and you don’t deserve to fall ill and not have answers,” said Reed. “Reach out to somebody to at least be seen and evaluated because we can do things to get you feeling better. If we can’t reverse the long-term consequences, we can at least improve your quality of life.”

A high-stakes undertaking

Close to 1,000 people in Georgia — and at least 17,000 adults across the country — are being recruited for the massive NIH study called Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER). Its goal is to answer fundamental questions about exactly how the virus causes long COVID, which ultimately could lead to better, more tailored treatments.

The study sites in Atlanta — Emory Hope Clinic, Grady, Morehouse School of Medicine, the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Healthcare System and Kaiser Permanente of Georgia — will work together and are slated to receive a total of about$20 million over four years for the high-stakes undertaking.

The NIH study

The Atlanta sites for the NIH are still actively recruiting patients who have had COVID-19 in the past 30 days, as well as those who have never been infected. Click here for more information.

Walker, from Grady, said clinicians have been working to recruit a diverse group of adults, and are seeking three categories of participants: those who have COVID right now, those with long COVID, and others who have never had COVID. Finding people who have never had the illness is getting increasingly difficult with an ever-changing virus and continued waves of infections.

Plenty of theories have formed around long COVID. Some researchers think people suffer prolonged symptoms because they have never really shaken COVID-19, though they think they have. Instead, the virus is still hiding in their bodies, damaging nerves and other organs. Other research suggeststhe virus may be gone, but it causes the immune system to go haywire and attack the body.

There’s also research that indicates certain medical conditions may play a role in who develops long COVID, such as Type 2 diabetes, or a reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus, which infects most people when they are young.

‘A monster’

In July 2020, Latoshia Allen Perrymond fell ill with COVID. Within a week, the 52-year-old Stone Mountain woman was struggling to catch her breath. She ended up hospitalized — for four months.

Though she survived, COVID damaged her heart and lungs. She said she’s been struggling mightily ever since. Dependent on oxygen around the clock, the former caregiver now relies on family members to help care for her.

She can no longer go on walks with her husband or cook big meals, or even sleep lying flat.

In late March, she eagerly joined the NIH study at Grady.

Like other participants in the NIH RECOVER study, she’s undergoing physical assessments.

“I feel good about the study because it means that I’m part of the answers,” she said. “I’m willing to do whatever they need because this COVID and long COVD is a monster and it’s still creepy. I’m learning to live with this new norm for me, but I hope that I can get better.”

Doctors are also eager for more answers.

“My hope is to find a pathology that unifies all of these symptoms,” said Truong. “My hope is, as the pandemic progresses, the variants become less virulent and less likely to cause long haul issues, and more and more patients are getting vaccinated. I hope we learn from this pandemic so that, when the next pandemic comes, we are a lot smarter, a lot more nimble in our approach, and more aware of the long haul issues.”

For now, the best way to try to avoid long COVID is to try to avoid the virus, Truong said. Get vaccinated and boosted and wear masks – especially indoors around crowds of people.

“It’s as simple as that,” he said. “But, unfortunately, I don’t think people want to hear it.”

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Who’ll Get Long COVID? Just a Look at a Patient Gives Clues

Authors: Dennis Thompson Jul 19, 2022 The Indiana Gazette

ometimes just looking at a person can give clues to their likelihood of developing long COVID after a bout with the virus.

For example, obese people are five times more likely to suffer long COVID symptoms that persist at least three months after their infection clears, a major new U.S. study finds.

Another risk factor: Experiencing hair loss during COVID-19 illness, the same study found.

Headache and sore throat during infection also greatly increase a person’s risk of long-haul symptoms, the researchers added.

However, the results also showed that other risk factors for COVID-19 infection do not necessarily mean a person will develop long COVID, noted senior researcher Eileen Crimmins, chair of gerontology for the University of Southern California and director of the USC/UCLA Center on Biodemography and Population Health.

“What’s somewhat more interesting are the things that didn’t matter,” Crimmins said. “Gender didn’t predict long COVID. Race/ethnicity didn’t predict long COVID. And having conditions like hypertension [high blood pressure], heart disease, cancer, they didn’t predict long COVID.”

Overall, 23% of people infected with COVID-19 can be expected to develop long-haul symptoms, regardless of whether their infection was severe enough to require hospitalization, Crimmins and her colleagues reported. The study was published online recently in the journal Scientific Reports.

The World Health Organization defines long COVID as symptoms that last 12 weeks or longer after the initial infection has cleared, the researchers said.

“A significant number of people may have trouble working, taking care of their families, doing the things they need to do day-to-day because they’ve had the condition,” Crimmins said. “So, it’s not a nothing disease.”

These numbers are based on the Understanding America Study COVID-19 National Panel, an ongoing regular survey of more than 8,400 U.S. adults.

Starting every two weeks in March 2020, panel members were asked to fill out a questionnaire detailing their health status and any symptoms they might be having.

During the following year, about 10% of total participants reported that they’d been diagnosed with or tested positive for COVID-19.

The researchers focused in on 308 people who had COVID-19 and had reported their health status and symptoms before, during, and at least three months after their initial diagnosis.

What factors influenced the odds of long COVID the most? Obesity increased a person’s risk of long COVID by nearly five and a half times, the results showed. Other prominent risk factors included hair loss during infection, which increased sevenfold the risk of long COVID. Headache and sore throat each increased a person’s risk by more than three times.

It’s likely that obesity and hair loss are both tied to the amount of inflammation a person suffers during their COVID-19 infection, which can wreak havoc on their body’s organs, explained Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

“Perhaps obesity allows that inflammation to persist for a longer period of time, therefore resulting in symptoms,” Schaffner said. “Hair loss is kind of new to me, but that’s obviously going to be some sort of symptom that relates somehow to inflammation.”

Surprisingly, age, gender, race, education, smoking, and preexisting health conditions like diabetes or asthma didn’t appear to influence the risk of long COVID.

The most common symptoms people developed during COVID that persisted months later included:

  • Headache (22%)
  • Runny or stuffy nose (19%)
  • Abdominal discomfort (18%)
  • Fatigue (17%)
  • Diarrhea (13%)

The study did not find other symptoms that have been commonly reported by long COVID-19 patients, including brain fog and joint pain, Schaffner noted.

“So there are some things that reinforce what’s in the literature and some other things that are a little different,” Schaffner said.

Despite that, Schaffner praised the study as a “noteworthy addition to the literature” that should help the many long COVID centers that have opened up around the country to deal with this phenomenon.

“The main thing I take away from this is that long COVID is not unusual. In fact, it’s rather common,” Schaffner said. “It’s persistent and it will require a great deal of medical attention going forward. A lot of medical resources will have to be devoted to this, and those resources will largely be outside the hospital, including supportive care, physical therapy and even some psychological support for these patients.”

Crimmins added it could take years, and even decades, to fully understand the long-term effects of COVID-19.

Research into the 1918 influenza pandemic found that fetuses in utero when moms caught the flu had a 25% higher risk of heart disease by the time they were in their 70s, Crimmins noted.

“There are things that may happen in this population to their underlying health that may not be immediately obvious, but could have relatively significant long-term effects,” Crimmins said of long COVID patients.

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Post Covid-19 complications: Skin issues, joint pain becoming increasingly common, say experts

People should seek good rehabilitative care, exercise every day, maintain good posture, and follow a healthy diet to manage joint and muscle pain

Authors: By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |

The list of post-Covid complications seems to be only increasing with doctors now saying that there has also been an increase in skin conditions like herpes, and joint pains in patients

What is causing joint issues?

There is about four-five per cent increase in arthritis cases post Covid-19 infection, said Dr Narendra Vaidya, joint replacement surgeon and managing director, Lokmanya Hospital Pune.

“During Covid, inflammatory molecules break muscle protein and decrease its synthesis causing muscle fatigue; this also damages cartilage, causing arthritis. Arthritis can also arise as sequele of steroid and antiviral drugs used to treat Covid-19. Musculoskeletal symptoms like stiffness of joints, muscle pain are commonly seen in post-Covid patients along with decreased muscle strength. Many people complain of joint and muscle pain, and have also come with new onset of autoimmune arthritis,” he said.

According to Dr Vaidya, patients complain of joint pain or arthralgia, muscle pain or myalgia, extreme fatigue, reactive arthritis, and vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels). “Joint pain can be temporary or continue for months,” he said.

One more reason to develop joint pain could be the overdose of steroids or a faster. This might develop osteonecrosis of bones, leading to faster degeneration and joint pains, said Dr Richa Kulkarni, chief consulting physiotherapist, KINESIS – Sports Rehab and Physiotherapy Clinic, Pune.

How to prevent and treat the condition?

People should seek good rehabilitative care, exercise every day, maintain good posture, and follow a healthy diet to manage joint and muscle pain, said Dr Vaidya.

What are the skin conditions?

Covid has induced many autoimmune and dormant infections in people with low immunity, such as herpes and warts. “Treatment with monoclonal anti–TNF alpha antibodies can cause herpes. Since the beginning of the pandemic, many people reported herpes, joint pain, and even warts. These problems are commonly seen in females when compared to males. People come with complaints like skin rash, redness, shingles around eyes nose, lips. These infections are common among senior citizens, and pregnant women. Herpes and other skin complications are getting triggered in patients who have a previous history. Do not ignore any signs like rashes, redness of the skin, and patches, seek immediate medical attention,” said Dr Vishwajeet Chavan, orthopedic surgeon, Apollo Spectra Pune.

Dr Saurabh Shah, dermatologist at Bhatia Hospital Mumbai has been seeing about one case of herpes zoster (covid related) every week. “The reason could be low immunity since  Covid attacks the immune system of the body. Herpes Zoster (also known as shingles) virus (Varicella Zoster virus) is present in the body of almost every individual. When our immunity gets compromised or jeopardised, herpes zoster, which lies dormant in the body (dorsal nerve root ganglion), becomes active and flares up. Usually this skin infection is seen in patients with poorly controlled diabetes, patients with chronic renal failure, patients on chemotherapy, post medical and surgical illness and other diseases that compromise our immunity,” he explained.

There is also an uncanny increase in the incidence of urticaria in a lot of patients, said Dr Shah. “These rashes appear as itchy, red, evanescent raised areas on most parts of the body, usually after an infection (post-Covid). These invariably disappear in a few hours,” Dr Shah told indianexpress.com.

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: February 21, 2022 4:22:15 pm

Indiana University researchers study long-term effects of COVID-19 on bone growth

Authors: Caitlin VanOverberghe 

SARS-CoV-2 can cause quick and significant bone loss—even when infections of the virus that causes COVID-19 appear to be mild.

Researchers in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine discovered that mouse models infected with the novel coronavirus lost approximately 25% of their bone mass within two weeks of contagion. They also found mouse models with a 63% increase in osteoclasts, the cells that cause bone to break down.

These changes were observed even in mice with mild and asymptomatic infections.

The study is part of ongoing coronavirus-related research being conducted by the Kacena Lab in Indianapolis, led by Melissa Kacena, PhD, the Vice Chair of Research for the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Findings will be published in the medical journal BONE.

The study raises questions about the lasting implications of the pandemic and the virus’s effects on the musculoskeletal system. The discovery will likely inspire further research into the potential bone loss experienced by people of all ages who contract COVID-19.

Decreased bone mass, or osteoporosis, can lead to brittle bones that are prone to breaks.

Elderly people have always been the most at-risk group for complications due to osteoporosis, because they are least likely to naturally regenerate lost bone matter. Because the elderly are also at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, Kacena is studying if those who overcome the virus will now be even more likely to suffer broken bones.

And with more children contracting the Delta variant, further questions are raised about whether young people can develop adequate bones after contracting the virus. Humans don’t reach peak bone mass until about age 25, Kacena said, and COVID-19 could be impacting normal bone development.

Kacena diverted her work to SARS-CoV-2 after several studies from across the country revealed that those dying from the coronavirus had high numbers of megakaryocytes built up in various organs, which causes significant issues.

Megakaryocytes are among Kacena’s areas of expertise; she studies their relation to bone regeneration and fracture healing.

The Kacena Lab began using transgenic mouse models to further study the coronavirus and its relation to megakaryocytes and bone health. It was the first lab in Indiana and only one of a handful of labs in the United States to start conducting coronavirus-related experiments at this level.

Megakaryocytes are large bone marrow cells that produce platelets needed for blood clotting. The autopsies of those who died from COVID-19 have revealed significant megakaryocyte build-ups in the heart, lungs and brain. The lab’s goal was to discover whether regulating megakaryocytes could change the severity of COVID-19 and decrease its morbidity and mortality.

From there, Kacena’s researchers began questioning the other effects COVID-19 might be having on the body, particularly the musculoskeletal system. These inquiries ultimately led to the discovery of decreased bone matter in the coronavirus-infected mice.

Researchers found a 24.4% decrease in trabecular bone volume fraction; a 19.0% decrease in trabecular number; a 6.2% decrease in trabecular thickness; and a 9.8% increase in trabecular separation

Researchers at all levels assist with work done in the Kacena Lab.

The lead author on the study published in BONE is Olatundun Awosanya, who began working in the Kacena Lab as an undergraduate in 2018 when she was assigned to work in the lab after being accepted into IUPUI’s Life-Health Science Internship (LHSI) program.

LHSI places 75 undergraduate students in immersive experiences around the Indianapolis campus, encouraging them to explore career goals while gaining important professional skills.

In her senior year at IUPUI, Awosanya was named College Intern of the Year by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce for her work in the Kacena Lab. Now, Awosanya is working toward a doctoral degree under Kacena’s mentorship.

The work was made possible by grant funding from the Cooperative Center of Excellence in Hematology (CCEH) at IU School of Medicine and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI).

This work was also supported in part by VA Merit Review Award #BX003751 from the United States (U.S.) Department of Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Research and Development Service. The contents do not represent the views of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, or the United States Government.

Long COVID’s daunting toll seen in study of pandemic’s earliest patients

Authors: Melissa Healy   6 hrs ago

COVID-19 patients in Wuhan were among the pandemic’s first victims, and a comprehensive new study finds that a year after shaking the coronavirus, survivors were more likely than their uninfected peers to suffer from mobility problems, pain or discomfort, anxiety and depression.

detailed accounting of 1,276 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the pandemic’s opening months reveals that a full year later, almost half continued to report at least one lingering health problem that is now considered a symptom of “long COVID.”

One out of five said they had continued fatigue and/or muscle weakness, and 17% said they were still experiencing sleep difficulties. Just over one in four said they were suffering anxiety or depression in the wake of their bout with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

For the growing number of patients who identify themselves as COVID “long haulers,” the new accounting offers cause for optimism — and concern. The period from six to 12 months after infection brought improvement for many. But most patients struggling with symptoms at the six-month mark were not yet well six months later.

The findings, catalogued by a team of Chinese researchers, were published late Thursday in the medical journal Lancet.

“This is not good news,” said David Putrino, a rehabilitation specialist who works with COVID long haulers at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “If you run the numbers here, about one-third of the group that had persistent symptoms are getting better after 12 months, while two-thirds are not.”

Putrino also called the findings a “wake-up call” to public health officials that even when the pandemic is over — a distant enough prospect in the midst of a fourth wave of infections — its downstream consequences will not be.

“We’re going to need resources for many years to come to deal with these patients,” he said.

There will be a lot of them. More than 87,000 COVID-19 patients are being hospitalized each day in the United States, and 2.7 million have receiving hospital care in the past year alone.

The half who contend with persistent symptoms will show up in doctors’ offices with clusters of vague and perplexing complaints including brain fog, heart palpitations, pain and exhaustion. And despite emerging evidence that time and specialized treatment can help many to improve, few will have the wherewithal to spend months in intensive rehabilitation for their symptoms, Putrino said.

An editorial published alongside the new study noted that only 0.4% of COVID long haulers are receiving rehabilitative treatment for their symptoms.

Even as scientists puzzle over the common biological mechanisms of long COVID’s diverse symptoms, healthcare providers “must acknowledge and validate the toll of the persistent symptoms of long COVID on patients, and health systems need to be prepared to meet individualised, patient-oriented goals, with an appropriately trained workforce,” Lancet’s editors wrote.

The new research also offered some glimmers of hope.

When the study’s COVID-19 patients were examined at six months, 68% said they had at least one of 15 symptoms considered hallmarks of long COVID, which is also known as Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID, or PASC. At one year, 49% were still afflicted by at least one of those symptoms.

The proportion of patients with ongoing muscle weakness and fatigue dropped from 52% to 20% during that time. Patients experiencing loss of smell dropped from 11% to 4%, and those afflicted with sleep problems fell from 27% to 17%. The 22% who reported hair loss at six months dwindled to 11% a full year out.

At the same time, the numbers of patients reporting breathing difficulties saw a slight increase, rising from 26% at six months to 30% after a year. Likewise, patients who reported new depression or anxiety increased from 23% to 26% during that period.

Study co-author Xiaoying Gu from the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing said the slight uptick in anxiety and depression was, like all of long COVID’s symptoms, hard to explain.

The psychiatric symptoms “could be caused by a biological process linked to the virus infection itself, or the body’s immune response to it,” he said. “Or they could be linked to reduced social contact, loneliness, incomplete recovery of physical health or loss of employment associated with illness.”

Patients who required mechanical ventilation were more likely than those with less severe illness to have measurable lung impairment and abnormal chest X-rays at both six and 12 months.

But in the tally of more subjective long COVID symptoms, the difference between the most severely ill and those who required no supplemental oxygen at all was very small.

That finding underscores the fact that even patients who are only mildly ill are at risk of developing a range of persistent symptoms.

Of the study population’s 479 patients who held jobs when the pandemic struck, 88% had returned to work a year after their illness. Most of the 57 who did not return said they either could not or were unwilling to do the tasks required of them.

The findings from the Wuhan patients also tracked with the widespread observation that persistent post-COVID infection symptoms are more common in women than in men. Women who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 were twice as likely as their male counterparts to report depression or anxiety 12 months later. In addition, they were close to three times as likely to show evidence of impaired lung function, and 43% more likely to report symptoms of fatigue and muscle weakness.

All of the study’s participants were treated at a single hospital in Wuhan, where reports of a mysterious new form of pneumonia first surfaced in December 2019. The researchers followed a large group of patients sickened in the first five months that the outbreak.

That makes the Lancet report one of the earliest and largest accounts of lingering COVID-19 symptoms to be tallied and vetted by other researchers, and the only one to compare such patients to a group of uninfected peers matched on a wide range of demographic and health attributes.

One thing is already clear, the journal editors noted: “Long COVID is a modern medical challenge of the first order.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.