New study: 1 in 5 adult COVID-19 survivors have long-term COVID

  • According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 is more common than most people realize.
  • Up to one in five adults under the age of 65 who have had COVID-19 have long had COVID-19.
  • Research showed that common long-term COVID symptoms were difficulty breathing and pain in the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, or muscles.

    New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found long COVID is more common than most people realize. The study, published earlier this week, found that one in five adults under the age of 65 suffers from the condition.

    For the study, researchers analyzed electronic medical records from nearly two million people, comparing people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the first 18 months of the pandemic to those who never had the virus. The researchers looked for 26 different symptoms that could be associated with a long COVID and found that the most common symptoms of a long COVID were breathing problems and musculoskeletal pain, i.e. pain in the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons or muscles .

    The researchers discovered that between 30 and 365 days after being diagnosed with COVID-19, 38% developed one or more new health problems (compared to 16% of people who did not have COVID-19 but did see a doctor). For people aged 65 and over, 45% of COVID-19 patients developed new health problems, compared to 19% of those who didn’t have the virus.

    The researchers discovered that the risk of long-lasting COVID symptoms was between 20% and 120% higher in people aged 65 and older with COVID-19 than in people who never had the virus. People aged 18-64 were up to 110% more likely to develop most symptoms of long COVID.

    “These results are not at all surprising,” says Thomas Russo, MD, professor and chief of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University at Buffalo in New York. “This will be the next phase of the pandemic. It’s pretty clear that Long COVID is real. A significant proportion of people are affected, and for a significant period of time.”

    While it’s important to note that the CDC’s analysis didn’t take into account COVID-19 vaccination status, another large study released Wednesday says your risk of a long COVID is reduced by only about 15% if you are vaccinated. However, the study showed that vaccination appears to reduce the risk of lung and blood clotting disorders.

    Vaccination status aside, there are many scientists who still don’t know anything about long COVID in particular. But there are some answers. Here’s what experts now know.

    What is long COVID again?

    Long COVID, also known as post-COVID-19 conditions, is an umbrella term used to describe a wide variety of new, recurring, or ongoing health problems people are experiencing after first becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 19, according to the CDC.

    There is no test for long COVID, and symptoms can overlap with those of other health problems, making diagnosis difficult, according to the CDC.

    What are some of the potential long-term effects of COVID-19?

    There’s a laundry list with potential Symptoms of a long COVID. According to the CDC, they most commonly include:

    • Fatigue or exhaustion that interferes with daily living
    • Symptoms that worsen after physical or mental exertion
    • Fever
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Cough
    • chest pain
    • Fast beating or pounding heart
    • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
    • sleep disturbance
    • dizziness when standing up (drowsiness)
    • pinprick feelings
    • Change in smell or taste
    • depression or anxiety
    • Diarrhea
    • stomach pain
    • joint or muscle pain
    • rash
    • Changes in menstrual cycles

      But these can be symptoms of a number of other health conditions, which complicates things, says infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “It’s important to really delineate what symptoms are actually disabling and interfering with activities of daily living versus people who have a cough that persists after infection,” he says. “A lot of the long COVID studies don’t use control groups, so you really can’t determine the true prevalence of some symptoms.”

      Why are older people at higher risk of long COVID?

      The study didn’t examine this, but Dr. Russo speculates that this is likely because older people are at greater risk of severe forms of COVID-19. “If you’re asymptomatic or have mild illness that doesn’t result in hospitalization, that in no way precludes you from the possibility that you can develop long-term COVID,” he says. “But most studies suggest that the more severe your illness, the greater your risk of developing long-term COVID.”

      According to the CDC study, people over the age of 65 had an increased risk of developing neurological and mental disorders. “Post-COVID conditions affecting the nervous system are of particular concern, as these conditions may result in early entry into supportive services or the investment of additional resources in care,” the researchers wrote.

      How long do persistent symptoms last after COVID-19 and before it is considered long COVID?

      There have been various definitions of it, says Dr. Russo, noting that some define someone as long COVID if it has been at least 30 days since their COVID diagnosis and they have symptoms, while others go as high as 90 days.

      (For what it’s worth, the CDC says long COVID can be diagnosed when at least four weeks have passed since someone was infected with COVID-19.)

      “We need a common definition for study purposes so that we can define a population and move forward,” says Dr. Russo.

      How long symptoms of a long COVID can last, says Dr. Russo that it really matters. “Some people have had symptoms for over a year at this point,” he says.

      If you have unusual symptoms and suspect you have had COVID for a long time, Dr. Russo to do your research to find a specialist center near you that treats these conditions. “There are more and more post-COVID recovery centers,” he says. And if you can find a recent study on people with your long COVID symptoms, he suggests trying to get included. “It allows you not only to be part of a solution, but also to be at the forefront of some treatment modalities,” he says.

      This article is correct at the time of going to press. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving and the scientific community’s understanding of the novel coronavirus is evolving, some of the information may have changed since the last update. While we strive to keep all of our stories up to date, please visit the online resources provided by CDC, WHOand your the local health department to stay informed of the latest news. Always speak to your doctor for professional medical advice.

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