One way of extolling the success of a health strategy is to count the recovered first and then the contaminated and, finally, the dead. According to data from John Hopkins University, there are almost 72 million people in the world who survived the covid-19. However, it cannot be said that they are cured or even free of the disease: even without the virus in the blood, they suffer from the so-called long covid, which inflicts new and old symptoms to the recovered, weeks after discharge. Its causes still remain a mystery to experts.
“Over the past few months, we started to get a sense of what problems these people were having,” says cardiologist Ani Nalbandian, from Columbia University, the lead author of a study now published in Nature Medicine.
According to her, “it is important for patients to know that what they are experiencing may be a consequence of covid-19 infection and that they are not alone in experiencing the prolonged effects of the disease”.
The research, in fact, is a review of the persistent symptoms left by SARS-CoV-2 infection, carried out by Nalbandian, his fellow cardiac electrophysiologist Elaine Y. Wan and plus oncologist Kartik Sehgal, from Harvard Medical School. The three led a team of more than 30 specialists from Columbia and other medical centers who worked with patients during the first wave of the pandemic.
In July last year, a study published in the medical journal JAMA Network revealed that many patients who go home continue to suffer from symptoms caused by SARS-CoV-2. “There are reports of those who feel the long-term side effects of the infection intensely,” he said at the time, in an article for The Conversation, Virginia University immunologist William Petri.
Italian doctors tracked 143 patients (ages 19 to 85) from hospitals in Rome, Italy; on average, the length of stay in hospital was 13 days, and about 20% needed to be intubated.
After two months of being diagnosed with covid-19, only 18 people (12.6%) no longer had flu symptoms; 32% suffered from up to two symptoms, while 55% had three or more symptoms typical of the disease – fatigue (53.1%), difficulty in breathing (43.4%) and pain in the joints (27.3%) and in the chest (21.7%). The cough still plagued more than 10% of those recovered; the same proportion of patients did not yet have a sense of smell. For 44.1% of patients, quality of life worsened after the disease.
“For patients who have a more severe condition and are taken to Intensive Care Units (ICUs), there is a substantial risk of delirium, a state characterized by confusion, difficulty in paying attention, due to little awareness of themselves, their environment and the environment. time, and even the inability to interact with others. This is not a specific complication of covid-19, but of the treatment in the ICU ”, explained Petri.
According to him, this mental confusion can remain for the following months in up to 75% of patients treated in the ICU; they have “difficulties with short-term memory, with the ability to understand written and spoken words and with learning. Some people have even had difficulty knowing where they were and what the date was, and the performance of cognitive control was also significantly worse. ”
Symptoms of covid-19 were experienced first hand by epidemiology Margot Gage Witvliet, from Lamar University. After a trip to Europe, she was admitted in February last year with the infection and, four months later, she still felt like she was in the first days of the disease.