University of Arizona researchers have awarded $7.3 million for a lengthy COVID study

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is one of five national sites selected to study post-COVID-19 conditions to better serve people with what is commonly referred to as the long COVID.

Researchers received $7.3 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to participate in Tracking the Burden, Distribution, Impact of Post COVID-19 Conditions in Diverse Populations for Children, Adolescents, Adults.

The long-term health effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection are known as Long-COVID or Long-Haul COVID, Post-Acute Consequences of COVID-19 and Post-COVID-19 Conditions or PCC. PCC encompasses a variety of health consequences that last or begin longer than four weeks after initial infection.

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There are three investigators who will lead the Arizona Track PCC, including Jennifer Andrews, an associate professor in UA’s College of Medicine and its Division of Pediatrics.

“Arizona has been hit hard by the pandemic, with the second highest number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people compared to any other state,” said Andrews, who will be collaborating with Kristen Pogreba-Brown, an associate professor and epidemiologist at Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and Susan Robinson from the State Department of Health Services.

“Our involvement in this program ensures that the diverse rural and cultural populations unique to our state are represented in the data. Our additional focus on including those with special health needs pays special attention to the diverse needs of this unique population.”

Arizona Track PCC will follow at least 1,000 individuals over a two-year period to track the progression of post-COVID-19 diseases over time. Data is collected and analyzed in collaboration with the Arizona Department of Health Services and other healthcare partners.

UA will “investigate potential solutions to improve the health and well-being of people affected by long-term COVID, not just in Arizona but nationally and around the world,” said Robert C. Robbins, UA President.

The study includes examining the long-term impact of post-COVID-19 illness across all age groups and in underserved communities or populations experiencing inequalities, including Hispanics, Native Americans, children and those with special health needs.

Other sites involved in the CDC’s Track PCC initiative include Temple University, the University of Indiana and Comagine Health.

Arizona researchers will estimate the number of people experiencing post-COVID-19 complications in the state using health records and administrative databases.

Project participants will work closely with CoVHORT, a study conducted by UA early in the pandemic to track the direct and indirect impact of COVID-19 in Arizona. So far, there are around 8,500 participants, helping researchers learn about trends in post-COVID-19 disease and monitor health outcomes, recommend prevention and care strategies, and educate the community about issues arising from exposure to SARS-CoV-2 result.

In the ongoing CoVHORT study, participants with milder cases of COVID-19 commonly experienced symptoms, including fatigue, headache, body aches, loss of taste or smell, and cough. Most cases resolved after several weeks; However, approximately 20% of the participants developed a serious illness.

CoVHORT also found that 68.7% of participants noticed persistent symptoms 60 days after infection, although researchers found it difficult to assess the impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection on known pre-existing health conditions, previously undetected chronic conditions and the distinguish indirect effects of the pandemic such as fatigue and anxiety.

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Contact reporter Patty Machelor at 520-235-0308 or [email protected]

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