New Delhi: About four crore Indians suffered long-term COVID-19 symptoms during the last two years of the pandemic, according to a study not yet peer-reviewed.
Long COVID-19 is defined as having new or persistent symptoms four weeks or more after the onset of the disease. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of concentration and joint pain. The symptoms can adversely affect day-to-day activities and can be severely limiting in some cases.
In the study, a team of international researchers jointly analyzed countries for the occurrence of three major symptom clusters of prolonged COVID fatigue, cognitive difficulties and shortness of breath.
They collected data from more than 44 global studies and medical record databases, as well as the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD) study from 204 countries.
The findings, posted to a preprint site, showed that 144.7 million people worldwide, in 2020 and 2021, suffered from at least one of the three symptoms.
Respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath were the highest and experienced by 60.4 percent of people. More than 50 percent suffered from fatigue: body aches, being always tired and easily upset. Cognitive problems such as memory loss, confusion, feeling disoriented were experienced by 35.4 percent of people.
Those with milder acute COVID-19 cases had a faster estimated recovery of 3.99 months than those admitted for the acute infection 8.84 months. After 12 months, 15.1 percent continued to experience long-term COVID-19 symptoms.
The risk of long-term COVID-19 was found to be greater in women between the ages of 20 and 29 and in women with a more severe initial infection.
“This pattern by age and sex differs from that of a severe acute infection, which affected more men and increased with age,” the researchers said.
Furthermore, the researchers also found that long-term COVID-19 also affected “a lower but significant number of children”, while severe acute infection at a younger age was very uncommon.
These differences suggest that the underlying mechanism of long-term COVID-19 may be different than that of acute infection severity, the researchers said.
“The onset of debilitating persistent symptoms of COVID-19 is common. Knowing how many people are affected and for how long is important to plan rehabilitation services and support to return to social activities, learning spaces and the workplace when symptoms begin to subside,” they added.