There is growing evidence that Covid is not the only viral disease that can lead to persistent complaints. According to new research, this also applies to influenza, and there is a case of “long flu,” by analogy with long Covid.
A study published Thursday in the scientific journal “The Lancet Infectious Diseases” showed that the influenza virus can also have long-term effects on health.
The study found that patients hospitalized with influenza had an increased risk of persistent lung complaints and other health problems 18 months after they were infected.
Lung problems in people who have recovered from the flu can range from a cough that lasts for months to severe shortness of breath caused by inflammation and deep scarring in the lungs.
The study showed that Covid patients were more likely to develop long-term problems in multiple organ systems at the same time. Flu patients had this too, but were more likely to have persistent symptoms that specifically affected the lungs.
“With the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting outbreak of long Covid cases, doctors have had to rethink their ideas about viral infections,” said study author and epidemiologist from Washington University in St. Louis, Ziad Al-Ali.
Tip of the iceberg
“Our view of these diseases has changed as acute events that we deal with and then leave behind,” he said. “The acute phase is like the tip of the iceberg. People who get this infection may also need post-acute care. We have to ask ourselves whether they have fully recovered, whether they are able to go to the gym as before, and what If they have the same mental ability.
Overall, the researchers found that illness caused by Covid was more severe, with higher rates of death, hospitalization and adverse effects on multiple organ systems, than was associated with influenza.
One thing the researchers don’t know is how much their findings apply to the general population. For the most part, the patients in the study were older veterans, and all of them were sick enough to be hospitalized.
“I think these results apply to people who were hospitalized due to these conditions,” Al-Ali said. “What we don’t know yet is whether and to what extent these findings will apply to people with mild Covid and mild flu symptoms who do not require hospitalization.”
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