Long-term COVID-19 affects 10% of people after omicron infection, US study shows

About 10 percent of people appear to suffer from long-term exposure to COVID-19 after a micro-infection, a lower estimate than earlier in the pandemic, according to a study of nearly 10,000 Americans that aims to help unravel the mysterious condition.

Early findings from a National Institutes of Health study highlight dozens of symptoms that most distinguish prolonged COVID-19, a catch-all term for the sometimes debilitating health problems that can last months or years even after a mild case of COVID-19.

Millions of people around the world have had COVID-19 for a long time, with dozens of widely varying symptoms, including fatigue and brain fog. Scientists still don’t know what causes it, why it only affects certain people, how to treat it, or even how best to diagnose it. Better definition of terms is essential for research to get those answers.

“Sometimes I hear people say: “Oh, everybody’s a little tired,” said Dr. Leora Horwitz of NYU Langone Health, one of the study’s authors. “No, there’s something different about people who have been sick with COVID for a long time, and it’s important to know.”

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The new study, published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, included more than 8,600 adults who had COVID-19 at various points in the epidemic, compared with another 1,100 who were not infected.

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Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are investigating a long-lasting COVID treatment

According to some estimates, about one in three patients with COVID-19 have had COVID-19 for a long time. That’s similar to NIH study participants who reported getting sick before the omicron version was rolled out in the US in December 2021. That’s also when the study opened, and researchers noted that people who already had lingering COVID symptoms were more likely to enroll.

But about 2,230 patients had their first coronavirus infection after the study began, which allowed them to report symptoms in real time, and only about 10 percent had lingering symptoms after six months.

Previous research has shown that the risk of long-term COVID has decreased since omicron became available; its descendants are still spreading.

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The bigger question is how to identify and help those who already have COVID-19.

A new study zeroed in on dozens of symptoms that could help define long-term COVID. fatigue; brain fog; dizziness; gastrointestinal tract symptoms; heart palpitations; sexual problems; loss of smell or taste; thirsty; chronic cough; chest pain; worsening of symptoms after activity and abnormal movements.

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Alberta woman has been living with long-term, horrible-tasting COVID-19 for nearly a year

The researchers scored the symptoms in an effort to establish a threshold that could eventually help ensure that similar patients are included in studies of potential long-term treatments for COVID, as part of the NIH study or elsewhere for apples-to-apples comparisons.

Horwitz emphasized that doctors should not use the list to diagnose someone with long-term COVID, it is only a potential research tool. Patients may have one or more of these symptoms – or others not listed – and still suffer from the long-term effects of the coronavirus.

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Everyone is doing long-term COVID studies, but “we don’t even know what that means,” Horwitz said.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

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