A comprehensive new study shows that the health effects of COVID-19 can not only last for months, but appear to increase the risk of death and chronic disease, even in people who are not sick enough to be admitted to hospital.
In the study published by Nature magazine on Thursday, researchers examined the medical records of more than 73,000 people in the United States, whose infection with the Coronavirus did not require hospitalization. One to six months after infection, these patients were more likely to die – 60% higher – than people who had not contracted the virus.
Research based on patient records from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Health Care System found that out-of-hospital coronavirus survivors were 20% more likely to receive medical assistance in those six months than people who had not contracted the coronavirus.
Survivors have suffered from many health problems they had never experienced before – not only lung disease due to the effects of the virus on the respiratory system, but also symptoms that can affect almost any organ or part of the body, from the nervous system to the heart and blood vessels. Or the digestive system. They also have an increased risk of developing mental health problems, such as anxiety and sleep disturbances.
One of the study authors, Dr. Ziyad Al-Ali, Head of Research and Development for the St. Louis Veterans System.
He added: “What was shocking about this finding when we got an overview is feeling frustrated, and seeing the scale of the disease.” “Honestly, it’s still shocking.”
In addition, some of the health problems of patients after infection with the Corona virus – such as diabetes, kidneys, and even heart problems – can become so chronic that they require treatment for the rest of their lives.
Dr. said. Laurie Jacobs, head of the internal medicine division at Hackensack University Medical Center, who was not involved in the study. “And it’s not over. We still don’t understand why, and in some cases it becomes chronic or crippling. In some areas, people have improved, but the situation is very different.”
The study is believed to be the most comprehensive to date assessing a variety of health problems. Covid survivors who were not hospitalized in the study tested positive for the virus between March 1 and November 2020.
Most of the 32 million people who contracted the Coronavirus in the United States did not need to be hospitalized, so somehow, the study could be applied to a large portion of the population. But the patients studied in the Veterans Health System may not be representative in some cases, considering that 88% of them were male and had an average age of 61 years. About 25% were black, 70% white, and about 5% other races.
The researchers compared the risk of death and other traits with data from about 5 million patients in the veterans’ system who had not had the virus and had not been hospitalized during this period. The average age of this group was 67 years, 90% of them were male, and they had a somewhat higher proportion of white patients and a slightly lower proportion of black patients.
Dr. Jacobs said his clinic was looking at a variety of symptoms in the study. But she added that the risk of death among patients in the survey was much greater than she expected. “I was really shocked at the number,” she said.
The study reported that after one to six months of developing mild or relatively moderate infection, 1672 of 73,345 patients died – about 2.3% -. There is no indication of the cause of death or anything specific about the circumstances of these patients.
Researchers were also unable to determine whether people had previous health problems and whether their new symptoms were direct effects of Coronavirus infection, the side effects of the drugs they were taking to treat some symptoms, or the stress caused by other problems related to the epidemic or others. Effects. Experts said that the results of the study reflect a series of problems arising not only from the virus itself, but due to the medical system’s struggle to deal with the Corona virus and its long-term effects.
Dr. said. “We have hundreds of thousands of people with unidentified syndromes and we are trying to learn about the immune system response, how the virus can change this response, and how the immune response can include all body systems.” Eleftherios Milionakis, director of the Department of Hospital Infectious Diseases at the Warren Albert School of Medicine at Brown University and Lifespan, who was not involved in the study. “The healthcare system was not designed to deal with something like that.”
In many cases, Milionakis said, people who have developed new symptoms and who have not become seriously ill from a viral infection enter a confused and balkan world in which they seek help from general practitioners. They, in turn, refer them to various specialists who try to figure out how to treat diseases in a specific area of their specialty. This helps explain why the study found that coronavirus survivors had about one and a half times more outpatient visits per month than patients at the Public Veterans Agency.
“We are dealing with“ silos. ”Every time we have a transportation, something is lost, Melonakis said. The patient loses and this can lead to prolonged exacerbation of other symptoms of Covid-19 virus. “
Al-Ali and his partners Yan Zi and Benjamin Bo, both from Washington University in St. Louis, analyzed the charts of 13,654 patients who were hospitalized due to their initial infection with the Coronavirus. As expected, they found that the sickest people – those requiring intensive care – were more at risk of developing long-term complications, followed by those who were hospitalized in shared wards, and then patients who had never been hospitalized.
However, nearly every category of symptoms – from chest pain to diabetes to even muscle weakness – has experienced them at least some people who have never been hospitalized.
Milionakis and other experts note that understanding of the virus and the type of medical treatments are evolving without fanfare, and this progress is already translating into improvements in some patients. Additionally, some people with COVID-19 have improved over time, either on their own or with the help of treatment.
But Al-Ali said: “We will have for a few years, and maybe even decades, to deal with the long-term impact of the epidemic on the health of Americans.”
He added: “We have been arrested and we are not prepared by Covid. We cannot hesitate about the long virus.” / Translated by Anna Capovilla