Long COVID: CDC working to better understand the full picture

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Millions of people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 are still suffering from persistent symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working to put together a complete picture of prolonged COVID, the syndrome of conditions that persists after having COVID-19, but an understanding is still elusive complete.

“An increasing number of people previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have reported persistent symptoms or long-term onset of symptoms, ≥4 weeks after acute COVID-19; these symptoms are commonly referred to as post-COVID conditions, or prolonged COVID,” the CDC said in a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The report added that COVID-19 survivors are twice as likely to develop a clot in the lung, also known as a pulmonary embolism, or other lung problems. And among those who survived COVID-19, one in five between the ages of 18 and 64 and one in four aged 65 and older experienced at least one condition that could be attributed to a previous COVID-19 infection.


The agency organizes symptoms of the condition into several categories, including general symptoms, such as fatigue, respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath, cardiac symptoms, such as chest pain or rapid heartbeat, and neurological symptoms, including those called “brain fog.”

“Some people with post-COVID conditions have symptoms that are not explained by testing,” the CDC said. “People with post-COVID conditions may experience health problems of different types and combinations of symptoms that occur over different periods of time.”

Anyone who has had COVID-19 can experience the condition, with a recent analysis of private insurance claims finding that more than 75% of long-term COVID patients were not hospitalized for their initial illness. The researchers analyzed data from the first four months after a special diagnosis code for the condition was created last year.

Atlanta, Georgia, USA - August 28, 2011: Close up of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention entrance sign.  Sign located near the 1700 block of Clifton Road in Atlanta, Georgia, on the Emory University campus.  Upright composition.

Atlanta, Georgia, USA – August 28, 2011: Close up of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention entrance sign. Sign located near the 1700 block of Clifton Road in Atlanta, Georgia, on the Emory University campus. Upright composition.

Estimates vary of the proportion who develop prolonged COVID-19, but approximately 13% develop the syndrome after one month of initial infection, 2.5% develop the condition at three months based on self-report, and more than 30% % among those hospitalized develop long symptoms of COVID-19 at 6 months, according to the CDC.

Some people are at higher risk for prolonged COVID, including those who have experienced severe illness from COVID-19, those with chronic medical problems prior to having COVID-19, those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, and those affected by disparities of health, such as certain racial inequalities. and ethnic minority groups and people with disabilities, according to the CDC.

However, the UK Health Security Agency reviewed eight studies investigating the impact of vaccines on long-term COVID and found that two of the eight had inconclusive evidence that vaccination reduced the risk of developing long-term COVID, according to your report.

Another study of 209 patients in Cell suggests that high levels of the coronavirus in the bloodstream early in infection, as well as the presence of specific antibodies that accidentally attack our own tissues, known as autoantibodies, may increase the risk of prolonged COVID .


The study also found that the virus known to cause mononucleosis in most people during childhood, known as Epstein-Barr virus, which typically remains dormant after initial infection, is another possible risk factor by reactivating later in life. adult in those who have COVID for a long time.

The exact cause of prolonged COVID is unknown, but some research suggests that an overactive immune response to the initial infection can lead to prolonged COVID symptoms, said Dr. Michael Peluso, an infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco.

“We know that during the acute phase of COVID-19, some people have a really revved-up immune response and some people have a reduced immune response, and that response can determine the trajectory of how well someone does,” he said.

Some research suggests that about 60% of all affected long-term COVID patients are women, which is consistent with other long-term conditions with similar symptoms, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, according to the Times.

Recent research suggests long spikes in COVID around middle age, with a recent Northwestern study of the first 100 patients treated for neurological symptoms at a post-COVID-19 clinic finding the peak age of the condition to be 43. .

There is no single test to diagnose prolonged COVID-19, but the CDC notes that a health care provider should consider the diagnosis based on a patient’s history, including a diagnosis of COVID-19 from a positive test or from symptoms or exposure, combined with a physical exam. test.

But some will also develop new health problems after the initial illness, the agency noted.

Sick young man in bed, covered with a light gray blanket, surrounded by used tissues

Sick young man in bed, covered with a light gray blanket, surrounded by used tissues

A recent Scottish study published in Nature Medicine found that one in eight patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between May 2020 and March 2021 were later diagnosed with myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, while damage to other organs, such as the kidneys, was also common.

“COVID-19 is a multi-system disease, and our study shows that injuries to the heart, lungs, and kidneys can be seen after the first [hospitalization] in scans and blood tests,” said Colin Berry, lead researcher on the study and professor of cardiology and imaging at the University of Glasgow.


“The best way to prevent post-COVID-19 conditions is to protect yourself and others from becoming infected. For those who qualify, getting vaccinated and staying up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines can help prevent COVID-19 infection and protect against serious illness.” disease,” the CDC said.

If you have prolonged COVID, click here if you are eligible to participate in the National Institutes of Health RECOVER study.

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