Covid-19 : symptômes, publics touchés… Ce que révèle une étude inédite sur le Covid long en France

Covid-19 : symptômes, publics touchés… Ce que révèle une étude inédite sur le Covid long en France

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For the first time, Santé Publique France has carried out a major study on the long Covid phenomenon. More than 2 million people over the age of 18 would be affected. Tiredness, cough, loss of taste and smell… The symptoms are varied and affect all age groups. Decoded.

From March 22 to April 8, 2022, Public Health France (SPF) conducted a large survey on post-Covid disease, also called “Covid long”, and has just published the results. According to the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO), long Covid usually appears within three months of the initial infection with Covid-19 and is characterized by persistent symptoms that, on the one hand, cannot be explained by others. diagnoses and, on the other hand, have an impact on the daily lives of those affected.

The main symptoms found in most cases are fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, memory/concentration problems, cough or all kinds of pain (chest, muscle).

A total of 27,537 people over the age of 18 participated in the study. Based on this sample, 13% said they had contracted Covid at least three months ago, and 4% said they had persistent symptoms at least two months after infection. Reduced to the general population over 18 years of age, more than two million people would be affected by a long Covid in mainland France.

“The long Covid multiplies the impact of the disease”

​​This study highlights the consequent health impact of Covid-19 even beyond the mortality caused by the disease, reacts Marisa Peyre, epidemiologist at CIRAD in Montpellier. If we look at the severity of the disease according to mortality, we can put it in perspective, but the flu does not have these long-term effects: the long Covid multiplies the impact of the disease ultimately.

Regarding symptoms, 87% of people with long-term covid said they had consulted their doctor, “which is what the Health Insurance recommends, so it is good,” confirms Véronique Gilleron, public health doctor of the University Hospital of Bordeaux. For more specific queries, 16% consulted specialists in pneumology, 11% in neurology, and 5% in infectious diseases. However, almost 11% of those surveyed with long-term covid said they did not seek care, mostly men under the age of 35. But the specialist wants to be reassuring: “Some symptoms of prolonged COVID disappear after a certain time, and there is particular support for loss of taste and smell.”

“All this has an economic cost for society”

According to the results of the study, the most affected audiences would be women, workers and hospitalized people. However, “the condition can affect all age groups of the population,” says Marisa Peyre. “Depending on the symptoms, the disease will impact the person’s daily life and all this at an economic cost to him and society,” adds the epidemiologist.

To anticipate these costs, the researcher recommends working on prevention strategies and investing in the long term, “to tackle the epidemiological risks at the source and avoid new pandemics”.

“We must not forget the vaccination that will make it possible to achieve herd immunity”, also recalls Véronique Gilleron. In fact, the vaccination rate will have an impact on the number of cases and therefore the number of people with a prolonged form of covid.

Do variants increase the risk of long Covid?

“It is difficult to predict what the other variants will do, we can expect, but we do not know, that they behave like the classic coronaviruses that we have in winter: we catch a little cold and we hope that it does not go away. beyond”, confesses the public health doctor. Same observation by the CIRAD epidemiologist: “The long-term impacts will depend on how the pathogen evolves, and potentially each variant can have different consequences.”

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