Long COVID, a condition with a wide range of persisting symptoms that occur following a COVID-19 infection, is still not well understood, but Israeli researchers have recently completed a study indicating the ailment may resolve relatively quickly.
The study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The BMJ looked at the health outcomes of nearly 2 million COVID-19 patients who developed mild illness after being infected. These patients tested positive for COVID-19 between March of 2020 and October of 2021 and included both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
Common health conditions that the researchers found associated with COVID-19 cases included the well-documented loss of smell; breathing issues; and impacts on concentration and memory. While the definition of long COVID is still not universally agreed upon, the researchers defined the condition as symptoms that were present four weeks after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
The majority of the reported health conditions, such as hair loss, heart palpitations, chest pain and memory impairment, resolved or fell back to baseline levels within a year.
“Although the long covid phenomenon has been feared and discussed since the beginning of the pandemic, we observed that most health outcomes arising after a mild disease course remained for several months and returned to normal within the first year,” wrote the researchers.
“This nationwide dataset of patients with mild covid-19 suggests that mild disease does not lead to serious or chronic long term morbidity in the vast majority of patients and adds a small continuous burden on healthcare providers,” they continued.
However, some other conditions were noted to persist more than one year after a patient’s initial coronavirus diagnosis. Loss of smell and changes in the patients’ abilities to taste were found to still be significantly higher than in uninfected people a year after the patients tested positive for COVID-19.
Across age ranges, people between the ages of 41 and 60 were found to have the highest number of post-COVID health issues, researchers noted.
The study also compared the health outcomes between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. The COVID-19 vaccines were developed and deployed during the time frame which researchers observed.
The analysis determined that vaccinated individuals were at a lower risk of developing prolonged difficulty breathing. They found that “the risk for all the other long term health outcomes was comparable” between the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups.