Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms in patients with Covid-19, both during the acute illness as well during the weeks or months that follows it. Depending on the study, fatigue has been reported in around 30%-80% of patients at 2-3 weeks to 6 months or longer after the onset of illness (1-4).
In a study of hospitalized patients with Covid-19, ~80% of patients complained of fatigue during the acute illness, with ~50% having persistent fatigue at a mean follow-up of 60 days following onset of illness (1). Persistent fatigue was the most common symptom during the post-Covid-19 period, followed by dyspnea, joint pain, chest pain and cough.
In another study, 52.3% of patients with Covid-19 complained of persistent debilitating fatigue at a median of 10 weeks after initial onset of symptoms, despite a negative test for the virus (2). Of interest, there was no association between severity of Covid-19 illness/need for hospitalization and post-covid fatigue. No association was found between routine laboratory markers of inflammation, WBC profile, LDH, C-reactive protein or interleukin-6 levels and persistent fatigue.
A CDC survey of outpatients with Covid-19 patients at 14-21 days from test date found persistent fatigue in one-third of patients (3).
A MedRxive study (pending peer review) of over 3700 patients with definite (27%) or probable diagnosis of Covid-19 from 56 countries (>90% not hospitalized) reported fatigue in 78% of patients after 6 months (4).
Although the true nature or course of persistent fatigue following Covid-19 has yet to be clearly defined, In some respects, it’s reminiscent of chronic fatigue syndrome associated with many acute viral infections, such as SARS, EBV, and enteroviruses (5-7).
Bonus pearl: Did you know that persistent fatigue following Covid-19 may be more frequent than that following influenza in which >90% of outpatients recover within about 2 weeks (3)?
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- Carfi A, Bernabei R, Landi. Persistent symptoms in patients after acute COVID-19.JAMA 2020;324:603-605. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32644129/
- Townsend L, Dyer AH, Jones K, et al. Persistent fatigue following SARS-CoV-2 infection is common and independent of severity of initial infection. PLOS ONE 2020. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0240784
- Tenforde MW, Kim SS, Lindsell CJ, et al. Duration and risk factors for delayed return to usual health among outpatients with COVID-19 in a multistate health care systems network—United States, March—June 2020. MMWR 2020;69:993-98. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6930e1.htm
- Davis HE, Assaf GS, MCorkell L, et al. Characterizing long COVID in an international cohort:7 months of symptoms and their impact. MedRxive 2020. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.12.24.20248802v2.full.pdf
- Chia JKS, Chia AY. Chronic fatigue syndrome is associated with chronic infection of the stomach. Clin Pathol 2008;61:43-48. https://jcp.bmj.com/content/61/1/43
- Moldofsky H, Patcai J. Chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, depression and disordered sleep in chronic post-SARS syndrome; a case control study. BMC Neurol 2011;11:37. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21435231/
- Hickie I, Davenport T, Whitfield D, et al. Post-infective and chronic fatigue syndrome precipitated by pathogens: prospective cohort study. BMJ 2006;333:575. https://jcp.bmj.com/content/61/1/43
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