BackgroundWhile the leading symptoms during coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are acute and the majority of patients fully recover, a significant fraction of patients now increasingly experience long-term health consequences. However, most data available focus on health-related events after severe infection and hospitalisation. We present a longitudinal, prospective analysis of health consequences in patients who initially presented with no or minor symptoms of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. Hence, we focus on mild COVID-19 in non-hospitalised patients.
Methods958 Patients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection were observed from April 6th to December 2nd 2020 for long-term symptoms and SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. We identified anosmia, ageusia, fatigue or shortness of breath as most common, persisting symptoms at month 4 and 7 and summarised presence of such long-term health consequences as post-COVID syndrome (PCS). Predictors of long-term symptoms were assessed using an uni- and multivariable logistic regression model.
FindingsWe observed 442 and 353 patients over four and seven months after symptom onset, respectively. Four months post SARS-CoV-2 infection, 8•6% (38/442) of patients presented with shortness of breath, 12•4% (55/442) with anosmia, 11•1% (49/442) with ageusia and 9•7% (43/442) with fatigue. At least one of these characteristic symptoms was present in 27•8% (123/442) and 34•8% (123/353) at month 4 and 7 post-infection, respectively. A lower baseline level of SARS-CoV-2 IgG, anosmia and diarrhoea during acute COVID-19 were associated with higher risk to develop long-term symptoms.
InterpretationThe on-going presence of either shortness of breath, anosmia, ageusia or fatigue as long-lasting symptoms even in non-hospitalised patients was observed at four and seven months post-infection and summarised as post-COVID syndrome (PCS). The continued assessment of patients with PCS will become a major task to define and mitigate the socioeconomic and medical long-term effects of COVID-19.