Researchers warn that long Covid infection rate in Africa is nearly 50% of cases: ScienceAlert

Researchers warn that long Covid infection rate in Africa is nearly 50% of cases: ScienceAlert

Nearly half of the people known to have had Covid-19 in Africa are now living with the effects of long Covid, according to a comprehensive review of previous studies and analyses, covering data from a total of 29,213 people.

Officially, long Covid means symptoms persist three months after infection with SARS-CoV-2. Worldwide, at least 10% of infected people are thought to have the condition, and recently published research suggests rising rates in multiple countries.

However, infection rates in Africa are much higher than any of these other estimates. Why this is the case is not clear. In low-income countries, estimates of long-Covid infection vary widely, due to hidden infections and difficult access to testing.

Among African countries, for example, previous estimates range from just 2% in Ghana to 86% in Egypt.

The fact that less than 51.8 percent of people in African countries have been fully vaccinated could also be another factor at play. However, specific data on vaccination status and outcomes of COVID-19 in this part of the world is largely unknown.

What’s more, a large proportion of patients analyzed in the current review were admitted to hospital or ICU, suggesting a bias toward more severe cases.

The team behind the review, led by researchers from the University of Bari in Italy, wants to conduct more research, so that experts can properly assess the long-term impact of coronavirus on the African continent and get treatment and support to those who need it.

“To our knowledge, this is the first meta-analysis exploring the prevalence, risk factors, and symptoms of long-term coronavirus in Africa,” the researchers wrote in their published paper.

“Nearly 50% of people included in this meta-analysis showed long-term COVID symptoms. This finding reinforces the critical importance of this emerging condition.”

The review showed that older people are more likely to develop long Covid, which is consistent with previous research. What did not match the results of previous studies is that there was no significant difference between men and women and the risk of prolonged infection with the Corona virus.

Cognitive impairment was the most common neurological symptom, and shortness of breath was the most common respiratory symptom. Psychiatric conditions were common, with a quarter of those suffering from long Covid reporting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“This is concerning, because the additional burden in mental health disorder caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its chronic consequences faces a health system that is largely unprepared to treat mental health conditions,” the researchers wrote.

While the severity of coronavirus and its symptoms can vary over a long period, it is a debilitating condition for many. Here, the team found that a quarter of people with long Covid said they had a poorer quality of life as a result, with fatigue and loss of appetite most frequently cited.

Currently, we do not have a cure for long-term coronavirus, although the symptoms can be treated to some extent in some cases. Research continues into how this condition affects the body, and how to combat it.

Regarding Africa, the researchers are calling for more data to be collected on long Covid across the continent, and to raise awareness about the prevalence of the condition – something that could ultimately help those affected.

“There is an urgent need for high-quality studies that address this condition in African settings,” the researchers wrote.

The research was published in Scientific reports.

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