Some people have long-term symptoms after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. This is referred to as ‘Long COVID’ or ‘PASC’: Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2. These symptoms may persist for several weeks after COVID-19, but could sometimes last several months.
What are the symptoms of Long COVID?
People with Long COVID may experience such symptoms as:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- muscle aches
- heart palpitations
- prolonged loss of smell
- or suffer from depression or memory problems – often called ‘brain fog’.
Some of these symptoms may last a long time, but their severity could decrease over time.
Who is more at risk for developing Long COVID?
We do not know yet exactly why some people have long-term symptoms after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. There seems to be some correlation with higher ages and the symptoms that the person had in the first phase of the infection. People who were hospitalised for COVID-19 and people with an elevated BMI or asthma also appear to be more likely to have post-infection symptoms that persist for longer. However, even people who have not been hospitalised can experience persistent symptoms. Long COVID appears to occur more frequently in women. After a serious SARS-CoV-2 infection, patients sometimes still have decreased lung function for months after discharge from hospital, as well as lung abnormalities that can be observed on X-rays or lung scans.
How often does Long COVID occur?
That is not clear yet. According to an initial estimate, up to 1 in 5 people still have symptoms 4 or 5 weeks after testing positive for COVID-19. That number continues to decline 12 weeks or more after infection. An optimal treatment for Long COVID has not yet been found. Therefore, research on Long COVID is being carried out all over the world.
Long COVID Study
RIVM is conducting research to find out more about how many people have persistent, long-term symptoms such as shortness of breath, pain and fatigue after COVID-19. For more information about the study see the page on the Long COVID Study, or sign up to participate (in Dutch).
Support for Long COVID patients
As mandated by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), an organisation known as C-support is working to assist COVID-19 patients suffering from long-term symptoms after SARS-CoV-2 infection. C-support informs, advises and supports them in all areas of life that are affected by this complex and still unknown disease: health, psychosocial and social factors and work & income. For more information, go to: https://www.c-support.nu.