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Nearly 25% of coronavirus survivors sought care for new medical ailments, study finds

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A large study found nearly one-quarter of coronavirus survivors reported new medical ailments following 30 days of infection. Patients who battled a severe course of COVID-19 were more likely to report other new medical issues.

Findings released from the national nonprofit Fair Health involved private health care claims data from 1,959,982 COVID-19 patients diagnosed with the virus from February to December 2020. The study excluded patients with specific preexisting conditions like cancer and chronic kidney disease due to potential confounding factors.

Results suggested 23.2%, or 454,477 patients, had at least one post-COVID condition 30 days after their first COVID-19 diagnosis, with the most common conditions identified as pain, breathing difficulties, hyperlipidemia, malaise and fatigue, and hypertension, researchers wrote. Ranking of conditions varied across age groups; pediatric patients reported pain and breathing troubles most frequently, but intestinal issues ranked third over hyperlipidemia, compared across all ages.

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What’s more, anxiety was found as the most prevalent mental health condition, followed by depression, adjustment disorders and tic disorders.

Females reported post-COVID conditions more often than males, which was said to be consistent with prior studies suggesting women report long COVID more frequently than men. Authors noted three conditions with the highest disparities between females to males, at about a 70:30 split: thyroid issues, depression and migraines/headaches. There was an exception of 12 conditions, including stroke, coagulation and death after 30 days, in which men held a higher prevalence.

Loss of taste or smell was evaluated but yielded no results.

Overall, the post-COVID conditions were found more frequently in patients who battled a severe course of COVID-19, though study authors noted a “substantial share” of conditions cropping up in patients who experienced no symptoms following infection. Of those hospitalized for the virus, 50% went on to see another medical diagnosis, declining to 27.5% for symptomatic patients not requiring hospital care, and 19% among asymptomatic patients.

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Hospitalized COVID-19 patients, who were later discharged, also faced a 46 times higher odds of death after 30 days of COVID-19 diagnosis compared to those who didn’t require hospital care. The authors noted 0.5% of the formerly hospitalized patients died 30 days or later following their COVID-19 diagnosis.

“The findings in this report are significant for all individuals who have long-haul COVID, as well as for providers, payors and policy makers. Additionally, FAIR Health hopes that these findings will be starting points for further research in this field,” authors wrote.

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