COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ more likely to seek medical care six months after infection: study

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A large study published Thursday found that COVID-19 survivors were about 60 percent more likely to die than uninfected individuals.

The research featured in the journal Nature looked at COVID-19 survivors who didn’t require hospitalization.

It found that between one and six months of infection, such COVID-19 survivors were more likely to die and also 20 percent more likely to need outpatient medical care.

This amounts to about eight extra deaths per 1,000 patients, according to Bloomberg News

The study showed that these non-hospitalized COVID-19 survivors were more likely to seek medical care for several different long-term medical problems, including respiratory issues, as well as neurological, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and mental health problems. 

The study reflects the experience of most Americans diagnosed with COVID-19 over the past year, as most of the more than 31 million people diagnosed with the virus in the U.S. did not end up in the hospital.

“The results provide a roadmap to inform health system planning and development of multidisciplinary care strategies to reduce chronic health loss among COVID-19 survivors,” the researchers wrote.

Researchers analyzed data from the Veteran Health Administration (VHA) of more than 73,000 people who survived at least the first 30 days after getting diagnosed with COVID-19 and were not hospitalized. Out of that, 1,672 patients, or about 2.3 percent, died, although the cause of death was not mentioned. 

The study compared that group with the almost 5 million VHA users who did not have COVID-19 and were not hospitalized. 

Each participant included in the study who had COVID-19 received the diagnosis between March 1, 2020, and Nov. 30, 2020.

Ziyad Al-Aly, the chief of research and development service at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System who led the study, said in a statement that the long-term effects from COVID-19 can “affect nearly all organ systems.”

He said that with more than 30 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S., estimates show that about 3 million people will deal with “long COVID.”

“The burden of long covid is substantial, and we should prepare for it,” Al-Aly said. 

However, the data from the VHA may not be representative of the population, with a majority of the patients being men and white. Those who had COVID-19 and were not hospitalized were 88 percent male and 70 percent white. Patients who did not get COVID-19 were 90 percent male and 76 percent white.   

The researchers also examined 13,654 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and almost 14,000 hospitalized with influenza who survived at least 30 days after admission. Those hospitalized with COVID-19 were 51 percent more likely to die than the influenza patients.

Updated: 3:14 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 COVID-19 hospitalizations hospitalization Pandemic veteran health
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