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Infectious Diseases

Updated 28 September 2020

Fatigue is common in people who recover from Covid-19, regardless of severity

Regardless of whether a case of Covid-19 was mild or severe, researchers found that persistent fatigue occurred in more than half of all patients.

  • Even with mild Covid-19, many people report fatigue long after recovery
  • In a study, researchers confirmed this observation
  • The severity of Covid-19 plays no role in persistent fatigue

As the Covid-19 outbreak continues, we have learnt that people experience the disease differently. Some require hospitalisation where the outcome may be fatal, while others are able to recover at home.

But according to new research presented at a conference on Covid-19 hosted by the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, there is one key factor that many Covid-19 patients, mild and severe alike, experience – persistent fatigue.

Persistent fatigue after Covid-19 infection

As more people recover from Covid-19, some are experiencing post-infection problems, the researchers stated.

"Fatigue is a common symptom in those presenting with symptomatic Covid-19 infection. Whilst the presenting features of SARS-CoV-2 infection have been well-characterised, the medium and long-term consequences of infection remain unexplored,” explained Dr Liam Townsend, lead study author from St James's Hospital and Trinity Translational Medicine Institute, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.

"In particular, concern has been raised that SARS-CoV-2 has the potential to cause persistent fatigue, even after those infected have recovered from Covid-19. In our study, we investigated whether patients recovering from SARS-CoV-2 infection remained fatigued after their physical recovery, and to see whether there was a relationship between severe fatigue and a variety of clinical parameters. We also examined persistence of markers of disease beyond clinical resolution of infection,” Dr Townsend stated.

The researchers used a scale called the Chalder Fatigue Score to investigate fatigue in 128 recovered Covid-19 patients and found that more than half of the patients reported persistent fatigue after their recovery.

Fatigue strikes, no matter how mild or severe the disease

The researchers found that even though 55% of the patients in the study were admitted to hospital, fatigue affected both mild and severe cases equally, and that there was no association between Covid-19 severity and fatigue.

They also found that certain laboratory markers of inflammation and cell turnover (factors such as the number of white blood cells or pro-inflammatory molecules) also didn’t influence the outcome of fatigue post-Covid.

Females and those with pre-diagnosed depression and anxiety, were, however, more likely to experience fatigue after Covid-19 infection, according to the results.

The authors concluded in their press release: "Our findings demonstrate a significant burden of post-viral fatigue in individuals with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection after the acute phase of Covid-19 illness. This study highlights the importance of assessing those recovering from Covid-19 for symptoms of severe fatigue, irrespective of severity of initial illness, and may identify a group worthy of further study and early intervention. It also supports the use of non-pharmacological interventions for fatigue management. These interventions will need to be tailored to the individual needs of the patients, and may include lifestyle modification, cognitive behavioural therapy and self-pacing exercise, where tolerated."

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