Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Three-quarters of COVID-19 patients hospitalized have symptoms months later: UBC study

Medical researchers at the University of British Columbia analyze long-term effects of COVID-19: 'Patients continue to struggle,' said Dr. Alyson Wong
Burnaby resident Jonah McGarva says he still deals with symptoms, months after he first started feeling ill with COVID-19, in March. Photo: Jonah Mcgarva

Long-term consequences of the novel coronavirus remain largely unknown.

In a first-of-its-kind study, University of British Columbia (UBC) medical researchers began to seek out and compile early answers.

UBC researchers tracked the health of people hospitalized in Vancouver with COVID-19 months after their first symptom.

What they found was “surprising,” the lead author of the study, Dr. Alyson Wong, told Vancouver Is Awesome.

Out of the 78 patients asked, more than three-quarters reported having a moderate impairment to their quality of life three months later.

Patients either said their quality of life was hindered, or they dealt with shortness of breath, weakness, anxiety/depression, or sleeping difficulties.

“I was surprised with how high the proportion is of patients still experiencing difficulties,” the doctor added, noting that more than half surveyed reported struggling with two of the factors.

Even half of those with no preexisting health condition before contracting COVID-19 still had health abnormalities, she explained.

Twenty-three percent of patients reported the presence of cough.

Burnaby resident Jonah McGarva is one of them – though he was not included in the survey.

The 41-year-old said he still experiences several symptoms related to COVID-19, months after he first started feeling ill in March.

"I am now on my seventh month of dealing with COVID-19 and I take a variety of medications, food, vitamins, and treatments to help alleviate symptoms," he said.

In a separate UBC study, COVID-19 patients were given breathing exams and CT scans three months after symptom onset.

“Over half were abnormal in their breathing tests,” said Wong.

“And 88 per cent of patients had persistent abnormalities in their imaging.”

Ultimately, the study concluded that "patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 continue to struggle following recovery from the acute phase of this disease."