But losing your sense of smell is associated with a greater risk of long covid, as is losing your hair.
Your weekly pandemic wrap from Australia and around the world.
- Up to 5% of people who lose sense of taste or smell with covid infection still haven’t recovered it by six months.
- Hair loss or anosmia associated with greater risk of long covid.
- One in ten people with long covid stop working, UK data suggests.
- Baricitinib associated with mortality reduction in patients hospitalised with covid.
Around three-quarters of people who lose their sense of smell during acute infection recover it within 30 days, and the same with taste; but a small proportion have persistent loss of either even at six months after infection.
A meta-analysis published in the BMJ of 18 studies involving around 3700 patients suggested the median time to recovery of sense of smell was just under 15 days and sense of taste was 12 days.
However at 180 days after infection, just over 4% still hadn’t recovered their sense of smell, and 2% hadn’t recovered their sense of taste.
Women were less likely to recover their sense of smell or taste, and patients who experienced more severe loss of smell or more nasal congestion had a lower likelihood of recovering it.
Loss of hair and smell during the acute phase of covid infection are significantly associated with an increased risk of long covid, and the risk is greater in younger people, research suggests.
A paper published in Nature Medicine followed around 486,000 people diagnosed – but not hospitalised – with SARS-CoV-2 infection before April 2021 for just over three months, and compared outcomes with a matched cohort of nearly two million people not infected with SARS-CoV-2.
They found that loss of smell during acute covid was associated with a six-times higher risk of long covid, and hair loss was associated with a nearly four-times higher risk. People who experienced ejaculation difficulties, loss of libido, shortness of breath at rest, and fatigue were around twice as likely to have persistent symptoms 12 weeks later, and those with pleuritic chest pain, hoarse voice and fever had a 75%-86% higher risk. Women had a 52% higher risk than men.
The study also found that, after adjusting for baseline risk factors, the risk of long covid was actually highest in those aged 18-30 years, and appeared to decrease with age.
The risk of long covid was higher in those of Black Afro-Caribbean or mixed ethnicity compared to white, and it increased with socioeconomic deprivation and in those who were current or former smokers.
More than 3% of the working-age population of the UK reported experiencing long covid in May, and more than one in five of them – around 400,000 people – said they were limited “a lot” by the condition.
Analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, using data from the UK Office of National Statistics, looked at the effects of long covid on the labour market. Using a definition of persistent symptoms for at least four weeks, they estimated that around one in 10 people with long covid had stopped work, representing lost earnings approaching £1.5 billion per year.
Overall, around two million people reported experiencing persistent symptoms in May this year, up from one million in the first half of 2021. Just over 70% of those reported that their day-to-day activities were adversely affected by long covid.
The authors noted that the proportion of people with long covid who said their activities were limited had been slowly increasing since the middle of 2021. This was in contrast to the decrease in the acute impact of covid infection, suggesting “the average impact of a case of long covid has not become any less severe”.
“With no end to the circulation of the virus in sight, this suggests that long covid might be one avenue by which the pandemic has lasting economic consequences,” they wrote.
The anti-inflammatory drug baricitinib is associated with a 13% reduction in the risk of death among patients hospitalised with severe covid.
Data from the UK RECOVERY study – an ongoing randomised, controlled, open-label, platform trial – published in the Lancet compared 28-day outcomes after baricitinib treatment or usual care in around 8000 people hospitalised with covid.
28-day mortality rates were 12% among those in the usual care group compared to 14% among those treated with baricitinib, and those treated with baricitinib were 10% more likely to be discharged alive within 28 days. The reduction in mortality was evident across a range of sub-groups, including those treated with dexamethasone, tocilizumab or remdesivir.
The authors commented the mortality reduction they saw was smaller than that seen in earlier studies, but the inclusion of their result in a recent meta-analysis of eight other trials pointed to an overall 20% reduction in mortality.
“Although not as large as perhaps previously thought, this still represents an important reduction in mortality risk for patients hospitalised because of covid-19,” they wrote.