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Long COVID has affected nearly 7% of American adults, CDC survey data finds

Millions of Americans report having long COVID, either previously or at the time of being surveyed, according to new data from the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

In reports published Tuesday using data from 2022 National Health Interview Survey, the agency said 6.9% of U.S. adults reported ever having long COVID, while 3.4% said they currently had the condition at the time of interview. Based on U.S. Census data, that would mean nearly 18 million have suffered from the condition at some point since the pandemic began.

The survey data also found women were more likely than men to report long COVID — an array of symptoms, whichcan be debilitating, that may linger for months or years after a COVID infection.

Results also differed based on age, with adults ages 35 to 49 being the group most likely to say they ever had (8.9%) or currently have (4.7%) long COVID.

For children, data showed1.3%reported ever having long COVID while 0.5% currently reported having it.

What is long COVID?

Exact definitions vary, but long COVID can be described as a post-infection set of symptoms lasting 3 months or longer after a person caught COVID-19. It can occur even if their initial bout illness from COVID was mild, although previous research suggests it’s more common after severe illness.

A study from earlier this year, funded by the National Institutes of Health, brought new understanding to symptoms associated with it. After examining data from thousands of adults, researchers identified the 12 symptoms that most set apart those with long COVID, which included:

Post-exertional malaise (debilitating fatigue that gets worse after physical or mental activity)FatigueBrain fogDizzinessGastrointestinal symptomsHeart palpitationsIssues with sexual desire or capacityLoss of smell or tasteThirstChronic coughChest painAbnormal movements

But patients may experience a range of other symptoms as well.

For Priya Mathew, who recovered from a mild case of COVID-19 last November, long COVID came with a long list of symptoms, including insomnia and extreme fatigue.

“Any little task took way too much energy. Just taking a shower, I had to rest for three hours after that,” she told CBS News earlier this year. Mathew said she couldn’t work for at least a month.

One of the most crippling symptoms for her was the sleep deprivation — sometimes known as “COVID-somnia,” According to a 2022 survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, nearly a third of Americans said they’ve experienced sleep disturbances since COVID began.

Can you treat long COVID?

While evidence suggests most people recover substantially within a year, many questions persist about the condition and how to treat it. Data has shown that long COVIDcontributed to more than 3,500 U.S. deathsas of the end of last year.

Researchers are increasingly focusing on the search for treatment options for the condition.

Last month, the NIH announced the launch of two new clinical trials to test potential treatments for long COVID, marking the first of an array of federally-funded studies aimed at evaluating how to help with long-term symptoms still faced by many COVID-19 survivors.

Long COVID remains an uphill battle for many Americans: “Every day, getting up is a fight”

Hospitals in a number of cities around the country have also created long COVID or post-COVID care centers that take a multidisciplinary approach to helping patients with these complex conditions.

Prevention plays another important role.

Several studies published in the peer-reviewed medical journal JAMA suggest that COVID vaccination may significantly lower the risk of developing long COVID.

-Alexander Tin contributed to this report.

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