6 out of 10 who had Covid continue to have symptoms 3 months after infection, says study

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A Brazilian survey pointed out that 58.5% of patients with Covid continue to show symptoms three months after the acute infection, of which 69% say they have not yet recovered from the long Covid.

The rate goes to 72% considering individuals who were not vaccinated at the time they contracted the virus.

The data are from the Solidarity Research Network, which includes scientists from several Brazilian institutions, including USP, UnB (University of Brasília) and Fiocruz Brasília.

According to the study, the symptoms of long Covid can appear both in those who had a severe condition and in those who had a mild or asymptomatic infection: while 94% of respondents with long Covid sought hospital care during the acute phase of the disease, the other 6% reported a mild picture.

The recorded consequences of the disease were multiple and affected different organs and systems in the body. Among the most frequent symptoms are anxiety (80%), memory loss (78%), pain (77%), lack of attention (75%), fatigue (73%), hair loss (71%), changes in sleep (70%), mood swings (62%) and joint pain (59%).

The note also warns that 81% of respondents have already sought some health service to treat persistent symptoms, but the lack of guidance from health professionals about Covid sequelae makes proper diagnosis and treatment difficult.

The survey was conducted electronically between March 14 and April 14, 2022. In the end, 1,728 adults aged 18 or over responded to the survey, of which 1,230 had a positive diagnosis for Covid confirmed by an RT-PCR test. Of the people with positive tests, 720 (58.5%) claimed to have persistent symptoms and, among these, 496 (69%) have not yet recovered from the sequelae. Most respondents (84%) were female and aged between 25 and 40 years (40%).

According to Fiocruz Brasília researcher Erica Tatiane da Silva, the higher incidence of symptoms related to mental and physical problems in an economically active population demonstrates how post-Covid sequelae can affect day-to-day activities.

“The big issue is that we do not have a very clear understanding of the causes and factors associated with long-term Covid, and from our research we observed a large impact on work and study activities without proper guidance to patients”, he says.

Silva also recalls that the effects of the long Covid are diverse and cannot be limited to one medical specialty, requiring an assessment for each symptom complaint, whether neurological, pneumological or cardiological.

“But it is important to emphasize that symptoms can appear in both sexes, in any age group and regardless of the severity of the disease, because even mild cases have reported post-Covid symptoms”, says Silva.

The note points out that, according to the WHO (World Health Organization), 10% to 20% of people with Covid can develop long-term Covid-19, which in Brazil can represent 2.8 million to 5.6 million. However, there are no more specific guidelines or guidelines from the Ministry of Health on this situation.

For Michelle Fernandez, researcher and professor at the Institute of Political Science at UnB, the Brazilian government lacked “energetic commitment” with regard to guidelines on long-term Covid. “We noticed that there was little concern on the part of the government to think about the long Covid, there was only one guideline from November 2021 looking at the management of the disease from a clinical point of view.”

The note reflects that, as in other areas, there have been failures in the federal conduct of long-term Covid guidelines. “The ministry could have acted to guide health professionals at posts about caring for people with symptoms of long-term Covid, and this could have been done within the scope of primary health care”, he says.

VACCINATION

According to the note, the incidence was higher in those not vaccinated, reinforcing what has already been found in other studies, including a Brazilian that pointed out that the fourth dose protects against post-Covid symptoms.

Other research points to a higher incidence of Covid sequelae in women, in people who needed mechanical ventilation and in those with a more aggravated condition during the acute phase.

“Without a doubt, it is important to raise awareness at this time of a strong and massive campaign in relation to vaccination, because, despite not having conclusive studies yet, there are already indications that the vaccine helps not only in the protection of serious conditions and death, but in the post-Covid ’ says Fernandez.

With studies pointing to a drop in vaccine acceptance in the country, scientists say that the new government, aligned with a campaign to encourage immunization, should also focus on guidance on long-term Covid. “Awareness campaigns are important to actually lead people to get vaccinated, to encourage vaccination”, he adds.

The research analyzed publications by the Ministry of Health on long-term Covid until the end of December 2022, still under the management of the Bolsonaro government (PL).

The health portfolio, already under the new administration of Lula (PT), said that it works with estimates of the prevalence of the most frequent symptoms of Covid-19 through the monitoring of clinical research. He also said that the follow-up of people with this condition is carried out in the Primary Care services, and the records in the systems are carried out through specific classifications (ICD U09.9 and U10.9).

The ministry reinforces the importance of vaccination, including all recommended booster doses, to ensure maximum protection against severe cases and long-term Covid.

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