People who have contracted influenza can suffer long-term symptoms in a similar way to long COVID-19, a study suggests.
The research, performed by Oxford University, analysed health records of people diagnosed with flu and COVID-19-19, mainly in the US. The two groups included people seeking healthcare for symptoms three to six months after infection, including problems such as anxiety, abnormal breathing, fatigue and headaches. There were signs that COVID-19-19 patients were more likely to have long-term symptoms, 42% had at least one symptom recorded compared with 30% in the flu group.
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‘Although incidence of long-COVID-19 features was higher in older individuals, those with more severe initial COVID-19-19 illness, and in women, they also occurred in children and young adults with relatively mild illness, and in more than half of non-hospitalised patients. This supports the large-scale rollout of health services and specific research funding calls for observational studies and trials in non-hospitalised patients,’ said Prof Amitava Banerjee, Professor of Clinical Data Science and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist, University College London.
The higher rate in the COVID-19 group could have been influenced by the fact that people may be more likely to seek care for long-term symptoms or the way symptoms are recorded for COVID-19. However, on balance they said it was likely persistent symptoms were more common for COVID-19 than flu.
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‘Over half of patients (57%) had at least one long-COVID feature recorded in the 6 months after infection and one third (37%) in the 90 to 180 days after diagnosis. Importantly, the analyses suggest that the risk of long COVID features occurring, or co-occurring, continues to increase 6 months after initial illness,’ added Professor Banerjee.