Longfonds: “Worrying picture of the long-term consequences of COVID-19”

Almost six months after the infection, more than half (55 percent) of 1005 corona patients still have 6 or more symptoms. 9 out of 10 (91 percent) indicate that they still suffer from more than one symptom. Less than 5 percent is now symptom free. This has emerged from research by Longfonds (Lung Foundation), knowledge and treatment center Ciro and the Universities of Maastricht and Hasselt. “A worrying picture. Once again it becomes clear how great the health consequences of this virus are ”, says director Michael Rutgers of Longfonds. “This patient group must be seen, heard and helped. That is why it is very important that their symptoms are assessed and treated.”

Most people are still tired and short of breath
The vast majority (86 percent) of the people who participated in the study report that they are still fatigued 165 days after the first symptoms. Almost 6 in 10 (59 percent) are still short of breath, and the COVID-19 patients still suffer from chest tightness (36 percent) and headache (35 percent). It is striking that the percentage of people who indicate that they have muscle pain (40 percent) has increased slightly.

The vast majority of respondents (94 percent) were not hospitalized because of corona. They had so-called "mild COVID-19". These are relatively young patients: the average age was 48 years. By far the largest group (86 percent) said their health was good before the corona infection. More than 6 in 10 (61 percent) had no underlying disease.

Worldwide unique research
“It is a special population. Three months ago this group completed the same questionnaire”, explains principal investigator Prof. Dr. Martijn Spruit. “As a result, we can now carefully compare the course of COVID-19-related symptoms in these people. That makes it an unique observational study worldwide.”

“Although fortunately many people have no long-term symptoms, there is a group of patients who remain symptomatic. We must not lose sight of them”, says Michael Rutgers. “This study involves a large number of COVID-19 patients who are still experiencing symptoms. For that reason alone, this research group is of great importance for the future and for the further organization of COVID-19 care.”

Rachel Burger (26) has had COVID-19 since March 17. She recognizes herself in the study: “I was perfectly healthy, I exercised 6 hours a week. And now I'm still so tired that I barely make it through the day. I have a lot of pain in my chest and bad short-term memory. I used to work 40 hours a week, but since I have COVID-19 I have been at home. Fortunately, I can now do sports physiotherapy twice a week through a rehabilitation program at the hospital. But I do worry: how long will this take?”

"Corona patients still not taken seriously"
The research stems from coronalongplein.nl, a collaboration between the Long Alliance Netherlands (LAN) and Longfonds (Dutch Lung Foundation). COVID-19 patients and their loved ones can visit the website for information, advice, help and research. The digital platform has now welcomed over 130,000 unique visitors. “We still see and hear that COVID-19 patients do not feel taken seriously. The causes and long-term consequences of COVID-19 are still far from known. That's why we have to keep listening to this group of people. So that they can receive the right care, treatment and guidance”, says Michael Rutgers.

"Post-COVID-19 syndrome"?
An online questionnaire was distributed for this study via coronalongplein.nl. Longfonds is in close contact with the Facebook group "Corona experiences and long-term complaints", which now has more than 15,000 members. The COVID-19 patients who gathered here and in a similar Flemish Facebook group were also able to complete the questionnaire. The first results were recently published in the peer-reviewed journal ERJ Open Research. The researchers point to the likelihood of a "post-COVID-19 syndrome".