Canadian study shows 75% of long COVID patients saw symptoms disappear within 1 year

By Lucas Casaletto

A new study from McMaster University revealed that 75 per cent of long COVID patients say that within a year of first exhibiting symptoms, the signs of the virus disappeared entirely.

Manali Mukherjee, an assistant professor of medicine at Hamilton’s McMaster University, is the study’s senior author, which was published in the European Respiratory Journal. The medical study polled 106 people recovering from COVID-19 infections at three, six and 12 months after contracting the disease.

It concluded that while 75 per cent recovered at the 12-month mark, 25 per cent of patients still had at least one of the three most common symptoms of coughing, fatigue and breathlessness. McMaster University researchers also found that patients with ongoing COVID-19 symptoms had antibodies associated with autoimmune illnesses.

“Generally, one should not worry if they are feeling unwell right after their infection, as the chances of recovering within 12 months is very high. Just because you have typical long COVID symptoms at three months does not mean they will stay forever,” Mukherjee said.

“However, the study highlights that at 12 months, if you still feel unwell and the symptoms are persisting or worsening, you should definitely seek medical attention.”

Long COVID patients should see a rheumatologist, if possible

The McMaster University study determined that patients surveyed were otherwise healthy and had no pre-existing autoimmune conditions or other underlying diseases.

Canada’s health agency notes that post-COVID-19 condition, or long COVID, may occur in some people weeks or months after initial infection. People who have been hospitalized or who needed intensive care during recovery are also likely to be at greater risk of experiencing longer-term effects from the virus.

Mukherjee said patients with long COVID symptoms should see a rheumatologist instead of being treated by respirologists or infectious disease specialists, as the latter do not specialize in autoimmunity.

“Sometimes, while the body is fighting the virus, the immune system gets so amped up that, in addition to making antibodies that kill the virus, it can produce those that attack the host,” said Mukherjee.

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“However, the general tendency of the body after it fights a severe virus-like SARS-CoV-2 is to recover, and it’s often paced out varying from individual to individual.”

Health experts say long COVID can impact adults and children, and symptoms can occasionally disappear and reappear without having another diagnosis to explain them.

Canada’s health agency cites evidence suggesting that vaccination with two or more doses may help reduce the risk of developing post-COVID-19 conditions if infected; however, there is no universally agreed-upon approach to diagnose and treat long COVID.

Australia and Canada recently joined a growing list of countries requiring travellers from China to take a COVID-19 test before boarding their flight as China battles a nationwide COVID-19 outbreak after abruptly easing restrictions that were in place for much of the pandemic.

Other countries, including the U.S., U.K., India, Japan and several European nations, have announced stricter COVID-19 measures on travellers from China amid concerns over a lack of data on infections in China and fears of the possibility that new variants may emerge.

With files from The Associated Press

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