Scientists from the University of Bergen analyzed the medical records of 312 people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 during the first wave of cases in Norway. Of these, 65 were hospitalized with complications, all the rest were treated at home.
After six months of follow-up, 61% of all patients in this cohort still experienced one or more symptoms of COVID-19. In the group of outpatients, that is, those who had a mild course of the disease, 55% of the study participants reported on the long-term consequences of coronavirus infection. The main finding was that more than half of these patients (52%) are very young – between 16 and 30 years old.
Most often, study participants complained of impaired smell and taste (28%), chronic fatigue (21%), shortness of breath (13%), problems concentrating (13%) and memory impairment (11%).
“The cognitive symptoms of memory impairment and problems concentrating are especially troubling for young people in school and university. Our results highlight the importance of vaccination, including for preventing the long-term effects of COVID-19, ”concluded the study authors.
These findings are broadly consistent with a review of 215 studies conducted by UK scientists, focusing on assessing long-term neurological and psychiatric symptoms following COVID-19. More than half of patients with mild COVID-19 reported chronic fatigue (55%), loss of smell (52%), muscle pain (45%), loss of taste, and headaches (44%).
“We expected neurological and psychiatric symptoms to be more common in severe cases of COVID-19, but instead we found that some manifestations were more pronounced in groups of patients after mild disease. It looks like COVID-19, which affects mental health and the brain, is the norm, not the exception, ”said lead author Jonathan Rogers.