CDC: Even Healthy Young Adults Can Have Prolonged Illness from COVID-19
A report published July 31 by CDC finds that COVID-19 can result in prolonged illness even among individuals with milder, outpatient illness. CDC’s findings include young adults without underlying chronic medical conditions. Researchers interviewed a random sample of symptomatic adults who had a positive test result for SARS-CoV-2. The interviews, conducted by telephone 14–21 days after testing, collected demographic characteristics, baseline chronic medical conditions, symptoms present at the time of testing, and other information. According to CDC’s report, approximately one-third of the individuals who were interviewed said they had not returned to usual health within two to three weeks of being tested and 19 percent of young adults aged 18–34 years with no chronic medical conditions reported not having returned to usual health during the same time period. Ninety-four percent of the 292 respondents reported having one or more symptoms of COVID-19 at the time of testing. Among those symptomatic respondents, 35 percent reported not having returned to their usual state of health by the date of the interview. CDC’s researchers note that 26 percent of interviewees aged 18–34 years, 32 percent aged 35–49 years, and 47 percent aged 50 years or older said they were not back to usual health within two to three weeks of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. The presence of chronic medical conditions such as hypertension, obesity, asthma, and diabetes also affected return-to-health rates: a greater percentage of persons with multiple conditions reported that they had not returned to their usual state of health than those with zero or one chronic medical condition. But nearly one in five previously healthy young adults with no chronic medical conditions had not yet returned to their usual state of health by the time they were interviewed.
“These findings have important implications for understanding the full effects of COVID-19, even in persons with milder outpatient illness,” CDC’s report reads. “Notably, convalescence can be prolonged even in young adults without chronic medical conditions, potentially leading to prolonged absence from work, studies, or other activities.” The report evokes concerns related to “long-haulers,” or individuals who experience prolonged symptoms of COVID-19 that can last months. Long-haulers, who media reports estimate to number in the tens of thousands, are beginning to draw the attention of researchers. In July, a study initiated in the United Kingdom began efforts to recruit 10,000 volunteers from among patients who had been hospitalized with COVID-19. The Post-hospitalization COVID-19 study, or PHOSP-COVID, will follow patients for a year in an effort to understand and improve long-term health outcomes. The study will attempt to relate long-term health issues to demographic data, clinical information, and biomarkers. The CDC report urges the use of preventive measures such as social distancing, frequent handwashing, and the consistent, correct use of face coverings in public to help slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2. CDC researchers also stress the importance of effective public health messaging intended for groups that might not perceive COVID-19 illness as severe or prolonged, including young adults and those without underlying chronic medical conditions. For more information on the PHOSP-COVID study, visit the study's home page and the website of the U.K.'s National Institute for Health Research.
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The report evokes concerns related to “long-haulers,” or individuals who experience prolonged symptoms of COVID-19 that can last months.