A CDC study indicates that more than 1 in 5 COVID survivors may be infected with COVID for a long time

Zoom / A patient infected with the Coronavirus in Germany undergoes a lung function test at the Pulmonary Center of the Hofland Clinic.

A study published this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more than one in five adults in the United States who have recovered from COVID-19 may end up developing a long-term condition associated with the viral infection.

Post-COVID conditions include heart, lung, kidney, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, nervous, and mental illnesses. Overall, COVID survivors had nearly twice the risk of developing respiratory and lung disease, including embolism, compared to uninfected controls. The most common post-COVID cases were respiratory ailments and musculoskeletal pain.

Among COVID survivors, people ages 18 to 64 were more likely than older survivors to develop dysrhythmia and musculoskeletal pain. The risks for survivors 65 and older were greater for kidney failure, blood clots, cerebrovascular disease, muscle disorders, neurological conditions, and mental health conditions.

In the older age group, “post-COVID cases affecting the nervous system are of particular concern because these conditions can lead to early entry into supportive services or investment of additional resources in care,” the authors wrote. And for the 18-64 age group, post-COVID cases can particularly impact “a patient’s ability to contribute to the workforce and may have economic consequences for survivors and their dependents.”

With more than 83 million cases of COVID-19 reported in the United States – and the actual number of infections likely to be significantly higher – the findings mean that millions could develop long-term symptoms, requiring additional care and resources. “Therefore, implementing COVID-19 prevention strategies, as well as routine assessment of post-COVID conditions among persons who have survived COVID-19, is critical to reducing the incidence and impact of post-COVID cases, particularly among adults aged 65 years and over. and 65. The authors conclude.

study design

For the study, the authors extracted electronic health records from a de-identified national database containing information on 63.4 million adult patients from all 50 states. CDC researchers identified 353,164 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 between March 2020 and November 2021. They then matched each COVID-19 patient in a one-to-five ratio to 1,640,776 patients in the control group who visited a health care facility during Same month as COVID – 19 patients were diagnosed but not diagnosed in the study timeframe. All survivors and observers were monitored for at least a month and up to a year.

Patients with a history of any of the 26 cases previously associated with COVID-19 were excluded from the study.

Overall, 38.2 percent of COVID-19 survivors developed a post-COVID condition, compared to 16 percent of uninfected controls. In the 18 to 64 age group, 35.4 percent of survivors developed a post-COVID condition, compared to 14.6 percent of controls. In the group 65 and older, 45.4% of survivors developed a post-COVID condition, compared to 18.5% of the controls.

The absolute risk difference between the percentage of COVID survivors and controls who developed a post-COVID condition was 20.8 percentage points for those aged 18 to 64, and 26.9 percentage points for those age 65 and older. Based on these calculations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in five adults ages 18 to 64 and one in four adults 65 and older have developed at least one case after COVID.

The study has several limitations, including making use of only electronic health records from a single software source, which creates the possibility that the results are not generalizable to the entire United States. It also did not take into account different SARS-CoV-2 variants and some demographic details, such as geographic location. Because it is based on electronic health records, it may bias those who more easily seek care.

However, the authors note that their findings are “consistent with those of several large studies that have indicated that post-COVID cases occur in 20-30 percent of patients,” they wrote. Overall, they conclude, “These findings could increase awareness of post-COVID cases and improve post-acute care and management of patients after illness.”

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