For those who do,
symptoms tend to be less severe, do not last as long: Expert
Vaccinated persons in Singapore who had Covid-19 over this recent Omicron wave or the one earlier in the year are much less likely to develop long Covid symptoms, said Dr Barnaby Young, head of the Singapore Infectious Disease Clinical Research Network at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).
Long Covid has been described as a condition where people still experience symptoms such as chest pain, breathing difficulties and fatigue months after the initial infection has cleared.
“From our experience at NCID, for those who do develop long Covid, the symptoms also tend to be less severe and do not persist so long among vaccinated patients with Covid-19 due to the Omicron variant,” he said.
“While we do not have a diagnostic test or treatment specifically for long Covid, we do have some medication for symptom relief, and usually perform some blood or imaging tests to exclude other causes.”
His comments come as a new study published in The Lancet medical journal suggests that one in eight adults with Covid-19 may experience long Covid.
“About one in eight patients reporting long Covid is similar to what we have described in Singapore, early in the pandemic,” said Dr Young.
The new study was conducted in the Netherlands by researchers from the University of Groningen. They collected data – mostly before the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out in that country – from online questionnaires on 23 symptoms commonly associated with long Covid, from April 2020 to August last year.
The researchers compared the symptoms in people infected with Covid-19 with those who were not.
They also asked participants if the symptoms were already present before their infection, in order to identify the core symptoms.
This method allows them to offer an improved working definition for long Covid and provide a reliable estimate of how likely it is to occur in the general population, said Professor Judith Rosmalen from the University of Groningen, the study’s lead author.
In the study, about 21.4 per cent of 1,782 participants who had Covid-19 experienced at least one new symptom or a symptom that was more severe than before, three to five months post-infection.
This compares with 8.7 per cent of 4,130 uninfected people followed in the same time period, suggesting that one in eight Covid-19 patients (12.7 per cent) in the general population experiences longterm symptoms due to Covid-19, the researchers said.
The core symptoms recorded were chest pain, breathing difficulties, pain when breathing, painful muscles, loss of taste and/or smell, tingling hands or feet, a lump in the throat, alternately feeling hot and cold, heavy arms and/or legs and general tiredness.
The severity of these symptoms plateaued three months after infection with no further decline. Other symptoms that did not significantly increase three to five months after a Covid-19 diagnosis included headache, itchy eyes, dizziness, back pain and nausea, the researchers said.
Dr Young said the study is very well conducted and has good quality data, particularly longitudinal symptom data, collected before and after acute Covid-19, and symptom data from a control group who did not have Covid-19.
An important caveat is that the data was collected from people who were infected relatively early in the pandemic, he said.
“We know that vaccination reduces the risk of long Covid by about 50 per cent, and the risk is also lower with Omicron, also by around 50 per cent,” Dr Young said.
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