News: New study reveals patterns, symptoms associated with long COVID

CDI Strategies - Volume 16, Issue 30

Experiencing lingering symptoms after testing positive for COVID-19, or “long COVID,” has been a monitored condition since the height of the pandemic. But only recently have studies been released to compare the prevalence of symptoms in certain populations, analyze warning signs, and identify who is most at risk. A study published in Scientific Reports examines a sample representing the United States population to do just that, gathering data of infected individuals who were interviewed one month before, at the time of, and 12 weeks after infection with the disease.

According to the study’s results, those who reported sore throats, headaches, and hair loss around the time of testing positive for COVID-19 may be more likely to experience lingering symptoms months later, Medscape Medical News reported. About 23% of the survey participants were still experiencing symptoms at 12 weeks, with the most prevalent being a headache (22%), runny or stuffy nose (19%), abdominal discomfort (18%), fatigue (17%), and diarrhea (13%). Of note, patients who reported experiencing hair loss were seven times more likely to have long COVID, and those who reported headaches and sore throats were about three times more likely. People with obesity were also five times more likely to experience long-term symptoms, according to the study.

Age, gender, race and ethnicity, smoking status, and chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma showed little correlation with long COVID risk, the researchers said, different from previous studies that indicated these factors could play a role. The data also doesn’t include information about variants such as Delta or Omicron, or the influence of vaccines, as it was taken from the Understanding Coronavirus in America survey conducted from March 2020 to March 2021.

"We need a universal case definition before we can really understand the prevalence of long COVID,” Jana Hirschtick, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, told Medscape. “Right now, the definition varies wildly across studies, leading to a big range in prevalence estimates."

Editor’s note: To read Medscape’s coverage of this study, click here. To read the study in full, click here. Additional ACDIS coverage of COVID-19 can be found here.

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