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More than half of patients suffer long Covid symptoms – SA study

At least 60% of patients with mild Covid-19 had one long Covid symptom, while 35% had three ongoing symptoms for two months, according to a South African study of the condition, with the scientists finding that some symptoms returned after a full three months.

Fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive problems, difficulty sleeping, depression, anxiety, rapid pulse, night sweats and chest pains are some of the common symptoms of post-viral Covid, also known as long Covid, showed the study, titled Two months’ follow-up of patients with non-critical Covid-19 in Cape Town and published in SA Family Practice.

The authors found that dyspnoea and fatigue were the most common symptoms, and that 52% of employed patients missed work and 25% of patients self-reported non-recovery from the virus, reports News24.

Pulmonologist Dr Rebecca Kgole said some symptoms returned three months after a person had been infected with Covid-19.

“Treatment is symptomatic and depends on what the doctor finds when investigating. Between 10% and 30% of people who contract the coronavirus experience long Covid symptoms for more than 12 weeks. Hospitalisation is usually to exclude other diseases that may cause similar symptoms.”

Long Covid was unlikely to kill anyone, but it certainly affected quality of life and a person's ability to perform day-to-day chores, she added.

A clinical case definition of the post-Covid-19 condition by a Delphi consensus, funded by the World Health Organisation, states that a proportion of those infected with Sars-CoV-2 experience long-term symptoms.

The Delphi study revealed that most patients with Covid-19 recover fully, but some had long-term effects on several bodily functions, including pulmonary, cardiovascular and nervous systems. There were also psychological effects of long Covid.

“These appear to occur irrespective of the initial severity of infection but are more frequent in women, middle-aged people and in those with more symptoms initially. The absence of both a single terminology and a clinical case definition has been repeatedly signalled as drawbacks to advanced research and management of these patients,” read the report.

Study details

Two months’ follow-up of patients with non-critical COVID-19 in Cape Town, South Africa

Andrea Mendelsohn, Nikhil Nath, Angela De Sá, and Klaus von Pressentin.

Published in SA Family Practice on 10 February 2022


Approximately 10% of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients will experience long COVID. There is no study of long COVID in mild COVID-19 patients in South Africa. This study aimed, firstly, to describe the prevalence of long COVID in mild COVID-19 patients in Cape Town, and, secondly, to document the impact of COVID-19 on patients’ well-being, work, and their access to long COVID treatment.

In this retrospective cross-sectional study, a random sample of adults diagnosed with mild COVID-19 were called two months post-diagnosis. The participants telephonically completed a standardised survey describing their long COVID symptoms, missed workdays, and health-seeking behaviour. Medical records were reviewed for comorbidities, original COVID-19 symptoms, and treatment.

It was found that 60% of patients with mild COVID-19 had ≥ 1 long COVID symptom, while 35% had ≥ 3 ongoing symptoms for two months. Dyspnoea and fatigue were the most common symptoms. The findings revealed that 52% of employed patients missed work and 25% of patients self-reported non-recovery from their COVID-19. Moreover, 24% of patients consulted a clinician for long COVID, but only 7% of patients received long COVID care in the public sector. Of the 17% of patients requiring additional help for long COVID, 56% were interested in assistance by text message or telephonic consultation.

Over a half of mild COVID-19 patients experienced at least one long COVID symptom for two months and nearly 20% needed additional medical treatment. Very few patients utilised the public sector for long COVID treatment. There is a great need for long COVID treatment in public healthcare services and patients are receptive to remote care.


SA Family Practice article – Two months follow-up of patients with non-critical COVID-19 in Cape Town, South Africa (Open access)


News24 article – Scores of Covid-19 patients still have not fully recovered (Open access)


See more from Medical Brief archives:


British man with long COVID finally cured of virus after 411 days


WHO estimates 17m long COVID cases in Europe and urges action


One in eight adults likely to develop long COVID symptoms – Dutch study


Long COVID impacts heart, lung and kidney – Scottish study





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