The results of an American study on the «Long Flu»: in the 18 months following the infection, even in patients hospitalized for flu, the risk of death, readmission to hospital and various health problems increased
There is not only the Long Covidbut also the «Long Flu». We know that Sars-CoV-2 can affect multiple organs and cause lasting and sometimes disabling health problems, even after recovery from the infection. Now a study by Washington University in St. Louis and the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System, Published on Lancet Infectious Diseases
indicates that even theseasonal flu It may cause long-term negative effects, especially at the level of the lungs and respiratory tract. The authors compared Sars-CoV-2 and the viruses ofinfluence, demonstrating that, in the 18 months following infection, the risk of death, readmission to hospital and various health problems increased in patients who required hospitalization. The most dangerous phase, according to researchers, occurs starting 30 days after the initial infection.
Long-term health problems
«The study illustrates the high number of deaths and health problems following a hospital admission for Covid or seasonal flu — explains the senior author, Ziyad Al-Aly, epidemiologist at Washington University —. Both viruses can cause long-term illness.” The analysis covered the 18 months following infection and included a comparative assessment of the risks of death, hospitalization and 94 disorders involving the main organs and systems. «Five years ago it would not have occurred to me to examine the possibility of a “long flu” – continues Al-Aly -, but an important lesson we have learned from Sars-CoV-2 is that an infection can cause chronic diseases. We wanted to know whether and to what extent people with influenza suffer long-term health effects: the answer is that both Covid and the flu can cause problems in the following months. Not only. Long Covid is a much more serious health problem than Covid itself and the “long flu” is a much more serious problem than the “simple” flu”.
More risks after Sars-CoV-2 infection
The risk of deaths, hospitalizations and ailments is higher after Covid than after influenza: during the entire 18-month study period, Covid patients faced a 50% higher risk of death than those with flu (about eight more deaths per 100 people); as regards hospitalizations, they were 20 out of 100 more (and 9 out of 100 more in intensive care) in the Covid group compared to the flu group. «There is only one exception: the flu poses higher risks to the lungs compared to Covid – says the expert -. Sars-CoV-2 can attack the lungs, but also other organs and is more likely to cause serious or fatal conditions involving e.g. heart, brain or kidneys». Covid was linked to a 68% increased risk of health conditions (64 of the 94 disorders analyzed), while influenza was associated with a risk of +6% (6 of 94 disorders), especially for the respiratory system. The study authors evaluated data from 81,280 patients hospitalized for Covid between March 2020 and June 2022 and 10,985 patients hospitalized for influenza between October 2015 and February 2019.
Increase vaccination coverage
«Our results highlight the need to reduce the risk of hospitalization for these two viruses – underlines Al-Aly -. For both Covid and seasonal flu, vaccinations can help prevent serious illness and reduce the risk of hospitalizations and death. The goal of increasing vaccination coverage must be a priority for governments and health systems around the world. This is particularly important for the most vulnerable categories, such as the elderly and immunocompromised people». In the case of both Covid and influenza, more than half of the deaths and ailments occurred from the second month after the infection and not in the first 30 days. «The idea that Covid and flu are only acute diseases does not take them into account long-term effects on human health — concludes Al-Aly —. Before the pandemic, we tended to discount most viral infections (“it will go away in a few days”), but we are finding that some people end up having serious long-term problems. We must stop trivializing viral infections and understand that they are mainly responsible for chronic diseases.”
Difficulty in diagnosis and treatment
Another study, from Queen Mary University of London, Published on EClinicalMedicine
shows that people can experience prolonged discomfort after acute respiratory infections, in general, who test negative for Covid (cold, flu or pneumonia). Among the most common symptoms are: cough, stomach pain and diarrhea more than four weeks after the initial infection. Although disease severity appears to be a key factor in risk, more research is underway to establish why some people suffer from prolonged symptoms and others do not. The study is part of Queen Mary University’s “Covidence UK” project, launched in 2020 and still in the follow-up phase, with over 19 thousand people enrolled. «Our results shed light not only on the impact of Long Covid, but also of other respiratory infections – says Giulia Vivaldi, researcher at the University of London and lead author of the study -. Lack of awareness prevents reporting of these conditions. “Long infections” are difficult to diagnose and treat, largely due to a lack of testing and the large number of possible symptoms. More than 200 have been studied for Long Covid alone.”
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December 23, 2023 (changed December 23, 2023 | 07:16)
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