1 in 5 adults may develop long COVID symptoms after infection, CDC says

·2 min read
Michael Sohn/AP

About 1 in 5 adults may develop at least one long COVID-19 symptom after having a coronavirus infection, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research published Tuesday, May 24.

For those 65 and older, the risk of developing at least one “post-COVID condition” is slightly higher and may affect 1 in 4 people, the CDC said.

Meanwhile, it is twice as likely for adults 18 and older who get over COVID-19 to develop pulmonary embolism — a traveling blood clot that forms somewhere in the body and moves to block a lung artery — or respiratory troubles, according to the CDC report.

Based on the findings, the agency advises “routine assessment for post-COVID conditions among” those who recover from the virus and especially for adults older than 65.

The most common long COVID-19 conditions in all adult patients were found to be “respiratory symptoms and musculoskeletal pain,” the study noted.

Long COVID-19 symptoms can linger for weeks, or even years, after an infection with “new, returning or ongoing health problems,” the agency says.

The condition doesn’t just affect those who developed a severe case of the virus, McClatchy News previously reported. Most diagnosed with it were never hospitalized after they got sick, according to research published by the nonprofit FAIR Health on May 18.

More on the CDC study

In the research, the CDC examined the electronic health record data of 353,164 adults previously diagnosed with COVID-19 from Cerner Real-World Data during March 2020, when the pandemic was declared, until November 2021. A total of 26 health conditions “often attributable to post-COVID” were analyzed.

Among all the patients, researchers found these “conditions affected multiple systems, and included cardiovascular, pulmonary, hematologic, renal, endocrine, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, neurologic, and psychiatric signs and symptoms.”

Those 65 and older had a higher risk of developing neurological symptoms and mental health conditions such as anxiety, the research said.

One study limitation included how the data on patients analyzed in the study came solely from those who visited health care networks that use Cerner electronic health records, according to the CDC.

“The findings might not be representative of the entire U.S. adult population or of COVID-19 case patients infected with recent variants,” because the data was examined only up until November 2021, the agency said.

In the U.S., omicron and its subvariants dominate virus cases, according to CDC data estimates. The BA.2.12.1 subvariant makes up the majority of cases as of May 21.

Ultimately, the study’s “findings are consistent with those from several large studies that indicated that post-COVID incident conditions occur in 20%–30% of patients and that a proportion of patients require expanded follow-up care after the initial infection,” CDC researchers wrote.

The agency predicted that the number of people living with long COVID-19 symptoms is “likely to increase.”

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