A research team led by Professor Bian Zhaoxiang, Director of the Clinical Division (CLNC), found that 55% of the patients who sought medical treatment from the “HKBU Chinese Medicine Telemedicine Centre Against COVID-19” during the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to experience long COVID symptom(s), such as fatigue, brain fog and cough, for six months to a year after diagnosed with an infection. The study also revealed that patients who took Chinese medicine after COVID-19 infection took a shorter time to test negative in rapid tests and experienced significant symptom relief compared to patients who did not take Chinese medicine. The findings have been published in international academic journals including the Journal of Medical Virology and The American Journal of Chinese Medicine.
During the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong, CLNC launched the “Free Online Consultation Service for COVID-19 Patients” and subsequently, HKBU established the “HKBU Chinese Medicine Telemedicine Centre Against COVID-19” to provide free telemedical services for COVID-19 patients. To understand the symptoms during the COVID-19 infection and the post-COVID syndrome, the research team conducted a retrospective study using patient statistics collected by the Telemedicine Centre during the fifth wave of the pandemic.
The research team analysed the symptoms in the first four weeks of about 13,000 patients who were infected with COVID-19 and underwent home isolation. The results showed that 93% of patients experienced at least one symptom. The most common symptoms during the first week of infection were cough (91%), sputum (75%), dry throat (50%) and sore throat (44%). 17% of patients still had these symptoms four weeks after infection. Although most symptoms gradually subsided over time, the prevalence of fatigue increased.
The research team further selected 311 patients who had taken Chinese medicine for five days within 10 days after diagnosis and compared them with another 311 patients who had not taken any Chinese medicine during the same period. The results showed that patients who took Chinese medicine within 10 days after COVID-19 infection needed an average of seven days to test negative in rapid tests, and experienced an average of four symptoms, which were significantly milder compared to patients who did not take Chinese medicine. For patients who did not take Chinese medicine, the average time to test negative was eight days, with an average of 11 symptoms. The results show that Chinese medicine is an effective treatment for COVID-19 infection.
From November 2022 to January 2023, the research team conducted a survey with 6,242 COVID-19 patients who sought medical consultation at the Telemedicine Centre. The study discovered that 55% of patients still experienced at least one long-term symptom, i.e., “long COVID” or “post-COVID syndrome”. The most common symptoms were fatigue (36%), brain fog (34%) and cough (31%). Furthermore, females, middle-aged persons, obese people, those with comorbidities, and patients with more initial symptoms were more likely to develop long COVID.
Professor Bian said: “By analysing the data from the HKBU Chinese Medicine Telemedicine Centre Against COVID-19, we deepened the medical community’s understanding of the symptoms during the early and middle stages of COVID-19 infection, as well as the post-COVID syndrome. It allows the public to understand the effectiveness of Chinese medicine in treating COVID-19. The study also shows that the tele-services of Chinese medicine can be an important component of Hong Kong’s healthcare and disease prevention system.”
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