Large-scale St. Louis VA study measures severity and scope of ‘long COVID’


Many people with COVID-19 continue to suffer from widespread health problems months after recovering from their initial infection, researchers from the Saint-Louis Veterans Affairs health care system have found.

In one study published this month in the journal Nature, researchers wrote that even after COVID-19 patients no longer tested positive for the coronavirus, they continued to have serious or chronic health problems. The study of more than 73,000 patients with COVID-19 found that they sought care and medication more frequently than people who did not get sick.

“What we see in acute COVID, we are literally seeing the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, doctor at St. Louis VA hospital and one of the study’s authors. . “If you start looking at a long COVID, that’s what’s behind this tip. … Some people call this our next big health crisis. I don’t think this is an exaggeration.

Patients have seen higher incidences of problems – such as heart and kidney problems and mental health issues. The most common symptoms were respiratory symptoms. The so-called COVID-19 long-haul group has developed problems in virtually every organ, Al-Aly said.

“Our approach was designed to leave no stone unturned,” Al-Aly said. “We have looked at all the diseases that we know exist. Our report shows that the burden of COVID is considerable, that it is not really small, and that it can take different shapes and forms in different people. “

Patients who recovered from COVID-19 also had higher incidences of depression, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

Study results confirm what Dr. Maureen Lyons, director of the University of Washington’s new Care and Recovery After COVID clinic, is seeing in his patients.

“Common symptoms include profound fatigue, inability to concentrate, inability to concentrate, headache, chest pain, chest pressure, high heart rate, and symptoms that affect all organs,” a- she declared. “The impact of COVID, even potentially what appears to be a mild case to begin with, can be quite impactful and can last for a long period of time and, frankly, an unknown period of time.”

Most of the long-term COVID patients who come to the clinic did not go to the hospital when they first fell ill, and many are younger and healthy people, he said. she declared. The average clinic patient is in his 40s.

The VA study found that while people with more severe cases of COVID-19 who required hospitalization were more likely to have ongoing health problems, even those with relatively mild cases of the disease developed long-term health problems.

The study authors say it’s not clear if or how the coronavirus is linked to these long-term health issues. The ongoing health problems could be caused by the virus continuing to live inside patients’ bodies, they wrote.

They also say it’s possible the virus could overload a patient’s immune system and make them sick.

Most of the VA patients in the study are male, reflecting the organization’s overall patient mix. Long-term COVID may be more prevalent in women, the study’s authors said.

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