Health Medical

Long Covid led to 3,544 deaths in the US, says CDC


HQ Team

December 14, 2022: A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that long COVID was the reason for 3,544 deaths in the United States between January 2020 and June 2022.

The study authors believe that the number might be lesser than the actual death count of people who died due to the lingering effects of Covid-19. Though the number is 0.4% of the more than 1 million pandemic deaths that occurred during the study period in the United States, but it is significant.

“A lot of people think of long covid as associated with long-term illness,” said Farida Ahmad, a health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead author of the study. “This shows it can be a cause of death.”

The findings show that a negative test for Covid-19 does not end the infection. Some people continue to suffer from the underlying effects of the disease, which manifests in the form of poor health. People suffer from anxiety and sleep difficulties, heart arrhythmias and blood clots.

 “Viruses have long-term consequences,” said Dr Ziyad Al-Aly to LA Times. He has studied the downstream health effects of an encounter with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“We’re pretty good at capturing acute disease,” he added. But researchers and medical professionals have a “major, major blind spot” when it comes to anticipating and detecting the longer-term fallout of a viral infection, he said.

The CDC report might likely offer “a gross underestimate” of the deaths attributable to long COVID.  This study is an indication of how long viral infections can lead to future afflictions.

Scientists call the long COVID symptoms as post-acute sequelae of COVID, or PASC, and the federal government launched a program to study it in February 2021.

In October, the U.S. government created a unique medical code to identify PASC in medical records. But the PASC has a list of wide-ranging symptoms, which tend to be overlooked by most physicians.

Researchers from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics had to hunt hard for PASC-related deaths from clues buried in death certificates. They started with 1,021,487 U.S. death certificates that indicated COVID-19 as the primary cause. They scanned for references to “chronic COVID,” “long COVID,” “long-haul COVID” or “post-COVID syndrome” to describe the symptoms some patients experienced after they had apparently recovered from the disease.

PASC or long COVID symptoms are fatigue, cough, chest pain or shortness of breath, muscle weakness, brain fog, palpitations, and anxiety or depression. As many as 1 in 13 adults, or 7.5 percent of the U.S. population, are experiencing symptoms that last three or more months after contracting the virus, according to the CDC.

Scientists are trying to understand the reasons behind the lingering effects of COVID. One argument is that it is caused by residual virals that continue to affect the immune system and trigger it in some way. Another surmise is that the virus takes residence in some parts of organs that the immune system cannot reach. What is more aggravating is that even people who barely showed any symptoms of COVID suffer from the long-lasting effects of COVID.

Older people were found to be more vulnerable to long Covid. Over 78% of the death certificates that listed long Covid as a possible cause of death were people above 65. Women were found to be more susceptible to the disease, but more deaths occurred among men((51.5%) than women(48.5%).

COVID-19 can also reactivate latent viruses from previous infections, particularly in people with chronic fatigue syndrome, according to a study from Linköping University in Sweden.

The World Health Organization reports that about 1 in 4 people who have had COVID-19 continue to experience at least one symptom a month after diagnosis and that roughly 1 in 10 have persistent symptoms after 12 weeks. In the United States, 7.5% of people who said they had COVID-19 reported lingering effects three months after recovering.

The new research found that a post-infection spiral toward death was most readily detected in older people: Just over 78% of the death certificates that listed long COVID as a possible contributor were for patients 65 and older.

While women are thought to develop long COVID more frequently than men, the study found death certificates citing long COVID were slightly more likely to name men (51.5%) than women (48.5%).

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