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Hospitalized coronavirus patients still suffer symptoms 6 months post-infection: study

A study published over the weekend has furthered existing evidence that so-called “long-COVID” is very much a reality for many who have contracted the novel coronavirus, with researchers finding in what is said to be the largest cohort study on the topic to date that for some, certain COVID-19 symptoms — namely fatigue and muscle weakness — stick around for up to six months following the initial infection. 

The study, published Friday in the medical journal The Lancet, studied more than 1,700 hospitalized coronavirus patients from Wuhan, China, where the pandemic first began last year. 

The researchers found that an estimated 76% of patients reported at least one symptom of the novel virus months after they were discharged, with fatigue or muscle weakness and sleep difficulties being the most common. 

Of the patients studied, 63% reported suffering from fatigue or muscle weakness six months post-infection, while 26% of patients reported continued sleep difficulties after the same amount of time. 

Anxiety and depression followed, with these symptoms being reported among 23% of patients studied six most post-infection.

More severely ill hospitalized patients, meanwhile, “had increasingly impaired pulmonary diffusion capacities and abnormal chest imaging manifestations” post-infection, the researchers wrote. 

“These results support that those with severe disease need post-discharge care,” the researchers concluded. “Longer follow-up studies in a larger population are necessary to understand the full spectrum of health consequences from COVID-19.”

The study follows separate research from the U.K.’s King’s College London in late October. At the time, researchers 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, while 189 suffered for over eight weeks, and 95 patients with symptoms reported that they 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. 

As for another possible long-COVID side effect, some coronavirus survivors have reported experiencing a distorted sense of smell, describing an unpleasant fishy or sulfur smell. 

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