Scientists Uncover Reason Why Women Are at Higher Risk of Long-Term Covid

By Emily Stearn, Health Reporter for Mailonline

11:06 Jul 10, 2024, updated 12:37 Jul 10, 2024

Women with heart problems who contract Covid are more likely to suffer from persistent symptoms, new research shows.

Scientists found that it took people an average of 20 days to recover from infection with the virus between 2020 and 2023.

But more than one in five adults took more than three months to recover – a phenomenon now better known as long-Covid.

The researchers, who followed more than 40,000 Americans who had been infected with the virus, also found that women were at greater risk for persistent Covid symptoms, despite having lower rates of severe infections.

This comes after Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s daughter Violet revealed she suffered a post-viral illness in 2019. In an impassioned speech before the LA County Board of Supervisors, she called for a “mask mandate” in medical facilities.

Violet said she saw ‘with her own eyes’ that medicine does not always have an answer to the ‘consequences of even small viruses’

Violet, who is often seen wearing a face mask, shared her experience of contracting ‘a post-viral illness’ in 2019; Seen with Affleck and stepmom Jennifer Lopez in 2023

The 18-year-old urged the administration to “tackle the prolonged Covid crisis” by beefing up security in hospitals and government buildings during the pandemic.

US officials suggest that one in 10 people who contract the virus will develop long-term Covid, while aIt is reported that around two million people in the UK live with the condition.

Symptoms range from fatigue and shortness of breath to muscle and joint pain.

In the new study, researchers analyzed data from more than 4,700 adults, average age 61, who were asked to self-report how long it took to recover from an infection.

What is long Covid?

Most people with Covid feel better within a few days or weeks, but people with long-term Covid take much longer to recover.

Symptoms include:

Fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of sense of smell and muscle pain.

It can also cause the following:

Memory problems, shortness of breath, insomnia, palpitations, dizziness, joint pain, tingling, tinnitus, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, high temperature, cough, skin rash and depression.

Source: NHS

They all participated in the study between April 2020 and February 2023.

They found that those who fought the infection at home recovered for an average of 33 days.

For comparison, patients who were in hospital took 58 days to recover.

People who received a Covid vaccine were about 70 percent less likely to have a recovery period of more than three months.

In the journal JAMA Network Open, the researchers also wrote: ‘Although research has shown that many patients with long-term Covid-19 experience psychological distress, we did not find that depressive symptoms prior to Covid infection were an important risk factor for long-term Covid-19.’

Professor Elizabeth Oelsner, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, added: ‘Our research underscores the important role that vaccination against Covid has played, not only in reducing the severity of infection, but also in reducing the risk of long-term Covid.

‘It clearly shows that long-term Covid has had a significant personal and societal burden.

‘By identifying who was likely to have a prolonged recovery, we can better understand who should be included in ongoing research into how to reduce or prevent the long-term effects of Covid infection.’

It comes as Violet Affleck, the eldest daughter of the 51-year-old Argo director and 13-year-old Jennifer Garner, 52, today opened up about her experience contracting “a post-viral illness” in 2019.

In her speech to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, she said she had “seen firsthand” that medicine does not always have an answer to the “consequences of even small viruses.”

She added: “You need to expand the availability of free, high-quality testing and treatment, and most importantly, the county needs to resist mask bans for any reason. They don’t keep us safer.”

“They make vulnerable members of our community less safe and limit everyone’s ability to participate together in the life of Los Angeles.”

Often self-diagnosed, the term ‘long Covid’ was coined for a set of symptoms following Covid infection, which can last for months or even years after the initial infection. Around 1.9 million people in the UK suffer from it, with the term covering everything from fatigue and shortness of breath to muscle and joint pain

The JN.1 variant, called Juno, has been dominant in the UK and US in recent months.

The number of Covid cases has continued to rise slowly in the UK in recent weeks, after infections started to decline in the spring.

Health authorities have already issued a warning about a variant, nicknamed FLiRT, they have been monitoring.

Virologists use the term FLiRT to describe a family of different variants: KP.2, KP.3, JN.1.7, JN.1.1, and KP.1.1. They are all descendants of Juno.

However, ministers have repeatedly indicated that they will not impose lockdowns unless a doomsday scenario emerges.

A wall of immunity among the population, built up by repeated waves of infection and vaccination campaigns, has given authorities the confidence to consign pandemic-era measures to history.

A spike in Covid cases could still lead to mass illnesses across the country, causing chaos in schools, health care and public transportation.

Officials are also no longer tracking the prevalence of the virus in the same way they used to, as part of the government’s return to pre-Covid normality.

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