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Over 75% of Long COVID Patients Have This in Common

The long COVID phenomenon—where people experience debilitating virus symptoms long after being infected—is one of the more concerning aspects of the pandemic. "There are multiple leading hypotheses out there about the cause of long COVID, including viral persistence, and it may be that there are multiple pathways at play, perhaps to some varying degree in any one person," says Linda Geng, MD, a doctor at Stanford Health Care who co-directs a newly opened Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome Clinic for treating long COVID sufferers. Here is what most long COVID patients have in common. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Most Long COVID Patients Were Not Hospitalized

man lying in bed at home suffering from headache

Over 75% of people with long COVID were not hospitalized when they first got infected. "It's generating a pandemic of people who were not hospitalized, but who ended up with this increased disability," says Dr. Paddy Ssentongo, an assistant professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Penn State. "These are people who have been healthy and they're like, 'Guys, something is not right with me'." 


How Many People Might Have Long COVID?

Doctors and virus experts are concerned that many people will have lingering COVID-19 symptoms, with consequences beyond hospitalization rates and infection cases. The data signals "how many people are leaving their jobs, how many are being given disability status, how much absenteeism is there in school," says Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health. "It's like a pebble thrown into the lake, and these ripples circling that pebble are concentric circles of impact."


What Are the Symptoms of Long COVID?

brain fog

"Symptoms of long COVID are like COVID-19 itself, because it affects all organ systems," says Devang Sanghavi, MD, noting the most common symptoms are "fatigue, post-COVID syndrome and post exertional malaise. You can have anxiety, depression, insomnia and what we call cognitive dysfunction or brain fog. There's also loss of taste and smell." 


Women Are More Likely To Get Long COVID

Woman wearing protective face mask in the office

"Recent studies have shown that there is an increased percentage of females, as compared to males, who have long COVID syndrome," says Dr. Sanghavi. "This is not specific to the Western world. This is across Asia, Europe and America, and similar trends are being seen. Predominantly middle-aged females become affected from long COVID more than males, and that is another thing—there's a historical perspective to this, and it is not a unique thing to post-COVID syndrome. However, we still need to focus more on this particular topic to discern the exact difference and why this is happening more in females."


Can Paxlovid Cure Long COVID?

Closeup of medical worker or pharmacist hands wearing blue latex protective gloves,pouring white medicine pills on palm of hand.
Recent studies have shown that Pfizer's COVID-19 oral antiviral Paxlovid could help with symptoms of long COVID—although the FDA has warned Paxlovid is not meant to treat long COVID. "There are some interesting hypotheses about how Paxlovid may be useful in the treatment of long COVID, but we'd need further investigation and clinical trials before coming to any conclusions," says Dr. Geng. "It would be important to consider the optimal duration of treatment [of Paxlovid] to ensure long-term and sustained results."


How to Stay Safe Out There

Woman is presenting COVID vaccination card.

Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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