As the country anticipates the end of the Covid-19 public health emergency, new research shows some groups are still feeling the long-term effects of the disease. According to a new study published Friday in the JAMA Health Forum, in the year following infection, people who suffer a long period of Covid are at high risk of experiencing a series of adverse health effects, including a risk of death doubled.
The study looked at insurance claims data for 13,435 adults with long Covid and 26,870 without Covid-19 over a 12-month follow-up period. Taking factors present before infection into account, the long Covid group experienced increased mortality, with 2.8% of individuals with long Covid dying compared to 1.2% of those without long Covid.
People with long-term Covid were also about twice as likely to experience cardiovascular events, including arrhythmias, strokes, heart failure and coronary heart disease. Lung ailments were also common. The risk of pulmonary embolism more than tripled while the risk of COPD and moderate or severe asthma almost doubled for people with long-term Covid.
The study found the risks were highest among people hospitalized within a month of a Covid infection.
“We know from the published literature that the long duration of Covid can lead to fatigue, headaches and impaired attention,” said Dr. Andrea DeVries, staff vice president for research on health services at Elevance Health and lead author of the study. “While these conditions are concerning, the results of this study point to even more concerning findings that may have a serious impact on the quality and length of life of people with long-term Covid.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines long Covid as having new, recurrent, or persistent health conditions more than four weeks after the initial infection began. According to a CDC study, one in five Covid-19 survivors aged 18 to 64 and one in four survivors aged 65 or older experience a persistent health problem that could be attributable to a Covid-19 infection.
Long Covid has been linked to over 200 signs and symptoms and 50 health conditions. Experts say the health consequences can last from months to years.
“We can only measure the extent to which the pandemic has occurred, but early evidence suggests that a large proportion of people who have suffered from a post-Covid condition do so more than two years after their initial infection, which is basically as long as it could be,” said Dr. Mark Czeisler who wrote a related op-ed also published in JAMA Health Forum.
Research has shown that re-infection with Covid significantly increases the risk of death, hospitalization and health consequences from long Covid. For example, the risk of cardiovascular disorders increases from 1.6 with one infection to 3.0 with two infections and to 4.8 with three or more infections.
“It demonstrates that it’s not like you have Covid once and then if you don’t get seriously ill or develop Covid for a long time from that first infection, the rib is clear,” Czeisler said, who did not participate in the study. .
Other risk factors for long Covid include advanced age, being female, smoking, higher body mass index and the onset of more symptoms during acute Covid-19 illness. . According to previous research, being vaccinated before infection has been associated with a decreased risk of long Covid.
The study authors say these findings call for continued efforts to prevent Covid-19 infections and better monitoring of individuals’ health after infection.
“The biggest takeaway is that long Covid is a health issue that we need to continue to study and take seriously,” DeVries said.