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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

Those findings were detailed in a study published by the CDC in August and, researchers wrote, "highlight the importance of COVID prevention, including staying up to date with recommended COVID-19 vaccination, and could inform health care service needs planning, disability policy, and other support services for persons experiencing severe activity limitation from long COVID."

One of the more curious aspects of long COVID is the sheer range of symptoms linked to the syndrome. Among them are postexertional malaise (in which a person feels worse after even minor physical or mental exertion); moderate or severe fatigue; dizziness; brain fog; gastrointestinal symptoms; heart palpitations; changes in desire for or capacity for sex; loss of smell or taste; excessive thirst; chronic cough; chest pain; and abnormal movements.

The root cause of long COVID has not been definitively established, though researchers are examining several possible explanations.

"We have not figured out who gets long COVID and who doesn't. And we have not figured out necessarily who, for sure, isn't going to experience some severe illness," said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

That's why it's so important that people continue to get updated COVID-19 vaccinations, doctors say.

"We now have even more data showing that vaccines can also lessen the risk of getting post-COVID conditions, including long COVID," said Dr. Nava Yeganeh, medical director of L.A. County's Vaccine Preventable Disease Control Program.

Researchers have uncovered specific long-term conditions that are associated with coronavirus infections among children and adults, Saydah added.


Among children and adolescents, coronavirus infection was associated with an increased risk of heart conditions, kidney failure, blood clots, diabetes, fatigue, smell and taste disorders and neurological conditions.

Among adults who had COVID-19, 1 in 5 reported a health condition that might've been related to their COVID-19 illness, including neurological or mental health conditions; kidney failure; blood clots; and musculoskeletal, cardiovascular or respiratory conditions.

"The symptoms and conditions of long COVID can persist for months or years after acute infection, and they also emerge or reemerge over time," Saydah said.

In a prospective study of adults who had acute COVID-19-like illness — whether or not they tested positive for a coronavirus infection — "we found that ongoing symptoms decreased after three months, but approximately 16% continued to experience ongoing symptoms at 12 months," Saydah said.

Among military veterans, researchers found that long COVID conditions decreased 90 days after the acute coronavirus infection, but that there was an increased risk of new conditions continuing for up to two years after the acute COVID-19 illness, Saydah added.

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