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Terror of long COVID remains common even as pandemic eases, data show

Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — Long COVID remains common after coronavirus infection, even as cases of the syndrome have decreased since the start of the pandemic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, data increasingly suggest that getting vaccinated reduces the risk of long COVID among children and adults — a factor health officials have cited as part of the rationale behind recommending virtually all Americans get a newly formulated vaccine this year.

"Those who do not get a COVID-19 vaccine have an increased likelihood of developing long COVID," CDC epidemiologist Sharon Saydah said during a recent meeting of the agency's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Long COVID refers to a wide range of physical and mental health problems that persist four or more weeks after a coronavirus infection. While research has hinted at a possible correlation between the severity of initial infection and likelihood of developing long COVID, the syndrome can afflict even those who had only mild symptoms — or none at all.

According to data from the 2022 federal National Health Interview Survey, 9% of U.S. adults age 35 to 49 reported having long COVID-19 at some point, with 4.7% saying they currently had long COVID at the time they were surveyed, Saydah said. That age range was the most affected by long COVID.

Among those age 50 to 64, 7.4% reported ever having long COVID, while 3.8% said they currently had the syndrome. For those age 65 and older, 4.2% said they had long COVID at some point, while 2.3% said they currently had it.


Among the youngest adults, up to age 34, 6.8% described ever having long COVID, while 2.7% said they currently had it.

"Post-COVID conditions are common following SARS-CoV-2 infection," said Megan Wallace, another CDC epidemiologist.

The prevalence of long COVID decreased from June 2022 to January 2023 but remained steady through the first half of this year, according to survey data.

"However, approximately one in four adults who currently report having long COVID report that it includes significant activity limitations. And this proportion has not changed in the past year," Saydah said.


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