The long-term effect of COVID-19 – primary care survey

Shlomo Vinker, Avivit Golan Cohen, Ilan Green, Eugene Merzon, Ariel Yehuda Israel, Eva Abramovich, Hagit Itamary

Keywords: COVID-19, long COVID, primary care

Long COVID-19 is a multisystem syndrome that may start 12 weeks after the acute illness. It appears that about 10% of the recoverees will have at least one symptom during this period. We lack information about the rate of various symptoms and persistence beyond six months especially after mild disease without hospitalization.

Research questions:
Characterization of the long-term symptoms of COVID-19 patients in Israel.

A nationwide telephone survey was conducted using a structured questionnaire on 714 post COVID-19 participants aged 18 or over, 12 weeks or more after virological defined recovery. Patients were randomly selected from approximately 80,000 COVID-19 recovered patients at Leumit Health Service in Israel.

About 14% of convalescents had at least one symptom, 12 weeks or more from recovery. The most common symptoms were memory or concentration disturbances (10%), muscle aches (8.5%), muscle weakness (7.6%), loss of taste or smell (5.9%) and headaches (3.8%). Six months after recovery, the incidence of most symptoms decreased, but memory or concentration problems (9.2%), muscle pain (7.8%) and muscle weakness (6.6%) remained common. In patients who had fever or muscle aches at the time of COVID-19 and in patients with chronic diseases, the rate of prolonged symptoms (>6 months) was higher. Older age and hospitalization during the course of the disease were not predictive of prolonged symptoms.

In a large sample of recovering patients, most of them with mild, community managed, the most common long term complaints were disturbances in memory and concentration and muscle pain.

Points for discussion:
Do long COVID exist and if yes to what extent and how to evaluate it?