An Irish woman was taken to the hospital after she started developing blood clots after contracting COVID-19.
While similar studies done in the United States and the United Kingdom also painted a puzzling picture for COVID-19 "long-haulers", authors of the Chinese study stressed that only 2 percent of their sampled patients said they had difficulties doing daily activities due to ongoing symptoms, meaning most of the discharged patients appeared able to resume their normal lives.
The scientists also noted that patients who were severely ill had impaired lung function and abnormalities detected in chest imaging post-illness, which indicated organ damage even six months after the symptom onset.
As for dealing with anxiety or depression, which was reported among 23 percent of patients in the study, Huang suggested psychological therapy including counseling, as these mental issues may be the result of the neurological effects of the disease as well as societal misunderstanding and stigmatization.
The study, which monitored 1,733 patients discharged from Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, is the largest and longest examination of COVID-19's long-term effects to date.
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For many hard-hit patients, lung function was still compromised half a year later.
Of 94 patients with blood antibodies tested at follow-up, the seropositivity (96.2% versus 58.5%) and median titres (19.0 versus 10.0) of the neutralizing antibodies were significantly lower compared with at the acute phase.
Fatigue or muscle weakness was reported by 63%, while 26% had sleep problems. Moreover, a follow-up study was conducted with the patients between June and September 2020. Antibodies were found to be 52% lower than they were at the height of infection. Of the 822 patients who had normal kidney function when they entered the hospital, the study reveals 107 (13%) suffered from reduced organ function during their follow-up six months later.
The short-term health effects and symptoms of Covid-19 are well-understood.
Understanding the long-lasting effects of COVID-19 on patients, even those who experienced mild symptoms, remains crucial to planning the healthcare system response in countries all over the world. "Our study shows that a large percentage of patients keep experiencing some of the symptoms of the disease months after they get discharged from the hospital".
"To our knowledge, this study is the largest cohort study with the longest follow-up duration for the consequences of adult patients discharged from hospital recovering from Covid-19", wrote researcher Chaolin Huang, of Jin Yin-tan Hospital, Wuhan, China, and colleagues in The Lancet, published online January 8.