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COVID-19 causes long-term physical, mental health problems

2022 Nov 11, 19:22, Washington

According to a new study published in the journal PLOS Medicine by Martin Roessler of Technische Universitat Dresden, Germany, and colleagues, there is a significant new-onset major complication in children, adolescents, and adults across 13 distinct diagnosis and symptom complexes following COVID-19 infection.

Studies have established that some people infected with COVID-19 suffer long-term health problems following the acute phase of the disease. However, evidence on post-acute (post-COVID-19) syndrome is still limited, especially for children and adolescents.

In the new study, using a healthcare dataset covering nearly half the German population and spanning all of 2019 and 2020, researchers identified patients with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. They then compared the occurrence of pre-specified diagnoses, entered into the medical record at least three months post-infection, in these patients (11,950 children and adolescent and 145,184 adults) to a control cohort of more than 750,000 individuals with matched age, sex and pre-existing medical conditions, without PCR-confirmed COVID-19.

Overall, children and adolescents who had been infected with COVID-19 were 30% more likely than controls to have documented health problems beginning three months or more after infection (436.91 vs 335.98 per 1,000 person-years, IRR=1.30, 95% CI=1.25-1.35, p<0.01). Adults with COVID-19 were 33% more likely than controls to have health problems (615.82 vs 464.15 per 1,000 person-years, IRR=1.33, 95% CI=1.31-1.34, p<0.01). Among children and adolescents, rates of malaise/fatigue/exhaustion, cough and throat/chest pain were the most strongly associated with a prior COVID-19 infection, but rates of headache, fever, abdominal pain, anxiety disorder and depression were also increased. Among adults, smell/taste disturbance, fever, and dyspnea (or difficulty breathing) were most strongly associated with COVID-19 infection but also more common were cough, throat and chest pain, hair loss, fatigue, exhaustion and headache.

"The results of the present study indicate that post-COVID-19 syndrome cannot be dismissed among children and adolescents," the authors say. "We found that COVID-19 diagnosis was associated with higher long-term demand for healthcare services as reflected in outpatient and inpatient diagnoses of a broad set of outcomes more than three months after confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. While children and adolescents appear to be less affected than adults, these findings are statistically significant for all age groups." 


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