Some conditions considered long-COVID symptoms don't seem to occur more often than after other viral respiratory illnesses (VRIs), but heart palpitations, fatigue, chest pain, and shortness of breath were among the problems unique to SARS-CoV-2, finds a study published yesterday in Open Forum Infectious Diseases.
Researchers from the University of Missouri and the University of Minnesota analyzed electronic health record data from 17,487 adults who tested positive for COVID-19 at 122 US healthcare facilities before Apr 14, 2022. The patients were matched with those diagnosed as having the common cold, flu, or viral pneumonia from Mar 1, 2020, to Apr 1, 2021, and with uninfected controls.
For each studied outcome, COVID-19 was compared with a generic VRI by predicting diagnoses that occur 30 to 365 days after infection. Diagnoses of which SARS-CoV-2 was a significant positive predictor when compared with both VRI and control groups were considered unique to COVID-19.
Seven conditions specific to COVID
Compared with other VRIs, COVID-19 infection was a significant positive predictor of heart palpitations (odds ratio [OR], 1.32), hair loss (OR, 1.32), fatigue (OR, 1.13), chest pain (OR, 1.1), shortness of breath (OR, 1.09), joint pain (OR, 1.08), and obesity (OR, 1.08).
Shortness of breath and chest pain were the only lung-related conditions significantly elevated in both comparisons of COVID-19 versus VRI and COVID-19 versus controls. Pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs), low oxygen levels, other respiratory failure, the need for oxygen, and pneumonia were significantly more common in SARS-CoV-2 than VRI patients but not compared with controls.
Abnormally rapid heart rhythm, anemia (low red blood cells), heart failure, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and type 1 diabetes were more common in COVID-19 than VRI patients but not compared with controls.
Relative to VRI patients, the average date of the last recorded fatigue and joint pain diagnoses was significantly earlier for COVID-19 patients, which the authors said suggests that symptom resolution may occur within 1 year. "The long-term clinical implications of SARS-CoV-2 infection are complex and will have on-going significant impact on quality of life and patient care," they wrote.