‘Major concern’: Study identifies two predictors of long Covid at the time of infection

Coronavirus booster vaccines to be offered to over 50s in Autumn

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The coronavirus is typically an acute illness lasting no longer than three weeks, but some patients have been plagued by complications for months after infection. According to the findings of a new study, this may now affect a staggering 23 percent of new cases. Now a new study has identified two predictors that may determine the risk of lingering symptoms.

The latest findings have suggested that obesity and hair loss at the time of infection are predictors of long Covid.

The first author of the study, Qiao Wu, a doctoral candidate and the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, said: “Long Covid is a major public health concern.

“Twenty-three percent is a very high prevalence, and it may translate to millions of people.

“More knowledge on its prevalence, persistent symptoms and risk factors may help health care professionals allocate resources and services to help long-haulers get back to normal lives.”

According to the World Health Organisation, long Covid describes symptoms of the virus that last longer than 12 weeks.

The new research, published in the Journal of Scientific Reports, emerged from a series of bi-weekly interviews conducted on Covid patients between March 2020 and March 2021.

The study’s final sample included 308 infected, non-hospitalised individuals, and of these patients, 23 percent reported having new-onset symptoms which lasted for more than 12 weeks.

The new-onset, persistent symptoms most commonly reported were headache (22 percent) runny or stuffy nose (19 percent), abdominal discomfort (18 percent), and fatigue (17 percent).

One surprising finding was that the likelihood of long Covid among people experiencing chest congestion was lower.

What’s more, there was a lack of evidence relating the risk of long Covid to preexisting health conditions like diabetes, asthma, age, gender, race/ethnicity, education and current smoking status.

Eileen Crimmins, a demographer at the USC Leonard Davis School, said: “The significant association between long Covid and obesity is consistent with previous studies.

“We differ from some existing studies in that we didn’t find a link between long Covid and any sociodemographic factors.”

Some evidence suggests people infected with Omicron, now the dominant strain in most countries, are half as likely to develop long Covid.

However, the two latest sub-variants of the strain, BA.4 AND BA.5, are thought to better evade immune defences.

The newest strains are also thought to have a higher capacity for reinfection.

What’s more, researchers have warned that the omicron wave is still likely to increase the total number of people with long-lasting health problems.

This argument is based on the fact the variant has caused a substantially higher number of infections.

It comes as the latest data from the World Health Organisation shows that coronavirus cases have now been rising for four weeks in a row.

Maria Van Kerkhove, said: “BA.5 has a growth advantage over the other sub-lineages of Omicron that are circulating.”

Gregory Poland, virologist and vaccine researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, added: “We have ample evidence that people who’ve been infected with Omicron are getting infected with BA.5. No question about it.”

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