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Post-COVID Syndrome: Up to 1 in 10 COVID Patients in China Experience Long-Term Symptoms

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Since the emergence of the COVID-19 virus, it has been more than two years. Many countries around the world have faced enormous challenges during this time, such as medical system collapses, implementation of isolation measures, mass vaccination, and so on. China is no exception. The number of confirmed cases in China has reached 1.2 million, accounting for more than 22% of the total population (data from the website of the Ministry of Health, Singapore).

With the emergence of vaccines and an average of 2-3 doses administered to the public, there has been an increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 recovery. However, according to surveys, some people in our country are facing cases of post-COVID-19 syndrome.

Around 1 in 10 COVID-19 patients in Singapore are experiencing long-term post-COVID symptoms. Despite testing negative, these recovered patients continue to experience various symptoms, including difficulty breathing, fatigue, and persistent cough. Recovered COVID-19 patients also experience symptoms such as fatigue, wheezing, palpitations, and persistent cough, in addition to breathing difficulties. These symptoms may persist for weeks or months after testing negative for COVID-19.

(The picture displays the distribution of post-COVID-19 sequelae symptoms)

Medical professionals have reported that with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, more and more patients are experiencing long-term effects of the disease.

Dr. Barnaby Young, head of clinical research at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) in Singapore, stated that according to data released in 2021, approximately 1 in 10 patients continue to experience symptoms even six months after contracting COVID-19. "More importantly, we find it difficult to determine which of these symptoms are truly caused by COVID-19 and which are due to other illnesses. Shortness of breath is often a symptom seen in severe cases of infection."

In a study conducted in Dublin, 50% of individuals still felt fatigued after 10 weeks of contracting COVID-19, and one-third of patients experienced lingering physical ailments that prevented them from returning to work. Importantly, doctors found that the severity of the infection was not necessarily linked to the level of fatigue experienced. Extreme fatigue is just one of many long-term symptoms of COVID-19.

Professor Chris Brightling from the University of Leicester, who is the chief investigator for the PHOSP-Covid project tracking patient recovery, believes that individuals who have had pneumonia as a result of COVID-19 may have more health issues due to lung damage. Results showed that nearly 87% of individuals had at least one symptom after two months, and over half still experienced fatigue.

Additionally, according to a study published in the journal Nature by the University of Oxford in the UK, the COVID-19 virus may lead to brain atrophy, even in individuals with mild cases of the disease.

The study involved 785 participants between the ages of 51-81, who underwent two brain scans with an average time interval of 141 days. Of those, 401 individuals contracted the COVID-19 virus during this time period.

Risk of Post-COVID-19 sequelae:

Brain atrophy

  • COVID-19 patients may lose an additional 0.2%-2% of their brain's gray matter, and brain regions associated with the sense of smell may be damaged.

  • Brain aging is accelerated by 1-10 years

  • Intelligence decline, reduced attention, concentration, processing speed, and memory impairment, among other conditions.

  • Severe cases may lead to dementia/Alzheimer's disease.

Pulmonary fibrosis

  • Insufficient oxygen supply

  • Decreased physical strength, reduced exercise capacity

  • Emotional changes, easily irritable and prone to depression, often experiencing mental fatigue, and decreased sense of smell and taste

Long-term COVID-19 sequelae

  • Women are at higher risk of long-term COVID-19 sequelae. The older they are, the higher the risk of developing long-term COVID-19 symptoms. The probability of developing "long-term COVID-19 symptoms" increases by 3.5% for every ten years of age.

  • Smokers, overweight individuals, and those who have been hospitalized are at higher risk.

Renal function decline

  • Renal function weakened

  • Severe cases may lead to kidney failure.

Male sexual function impairment

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Reduced size of genital organs

Real-life case:

According to information from China's 8 Vision News Network:

During an interview with Asia News Network, 49-year-old Wang Duolis (pinyin) said that since being infected with the novel coronavirus in November last year, she has always felt exhausted and breathless after walking short distances.

She said that she used to be able to walk home from the bus station carrying two bags of groceries in just 10 minutes. However, after contracting COVID-19, she took 20 minutes to walk home with just a coconut. Along the way, she felt very tired and had to stop and rest several times.

She said that a month ago, she suddenly felt her heart being "squeezed" while eating laksa.

Although her symptoms have recently improved, she still feels extremely weak compared to before. However, she did not go to the hospital for treatment.

In addition, Jocelyn Ng, a woman in her 40s, said during the interview that she has become "very sensitive" to any stimuli that irritate her throat or respiratory tract, or any smoke or odors. This can cause wheezing coughs when severe.

She also said that one of her hands suddenly became "hard" and swollen, and became completely numb after she fell asleep.

At that time, Jocelyn's hand kept twitching, as if her blood was blocked when it flowed. "I have never felt such unbearable pain before... I even cried."

These symptoms have affected her life, and she needs to have massages every week due to the frequent pain and swelling in her hands.


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