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Now, study shows ‘long Covid’ lasts for less than a year

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MUMBAI: Three years after the covid pandemic began and affected over 500 million people, there is evidence that ‘long Covid’ – the term used to describe debilitating symptoms that drag on for months in some patients after the viral infection ends – lasts for less than a year.

A study published in ‘The BMJ’ late on Wednesday said: “Although the long Covid phenomenon has been feared and discussed since the beginning of the pandemic, the vast majority of mild disease cases do not suffer serious or chronic long-term illness”. The Israeli researchers who wrote the study said it’s one of the longest follow-up studies.

In Mumbai as well, doctors treating long Covid said the “problems lasted up to a year”. Long Covid is defined as symptoms persisting or new symptoms appearing more than four weeks after initial infection. The symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of smell, loss of taste, and difficulty concentrating.

One of the worst-hit patients whom infectious diseases specialist Dr Anita Mathew from Fortis Hospital, Mulund, treated was a middle-aged woman with “weakness” for 14 months. “The most common long Covid symptom was severe lethargy and bodyache,” said Dr Mathew, who herself suffered from post covid symptoms for up to four months.

Dr Mala Kaneria from Nair and Jaslok Hospitals said some patients had developed post covid diabetes or thyroid imbalance. “But other physical problems disappeared six to 12 months later,” she said.

Head of intensive care from HN Hospital, Dr Rahul Pandit, said the Israeli study had only looked at unvaccinated patients. “In India, most have been vaccinated at least once. Hence, it’s likely long Covid was of a shorter duration among Indians,” he said. By the time of the Omicron wave in 2022, people had accepted the concept of “lingering symptoms”, he added. However, no study across the world has yet been able to zero down on why some patients get long Covid while most don’t.

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