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CDC: Long COVID linked to quadrupled risk of chronic fatigue

The study looked at electronic health records from the University of Washington of more than 4,500 patients who were confirmed to have had COVID-19 between February 2020 and February 2021, according to ABC News.

COVID-19 patients are at least four times more likely to develop chronic fatigue than someone who has not had the virus, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The study looked at electronic health records from the University of Washington of more than 4,500 patients who were confirmed to have had COVID-19 between February 2020 and February 2021, according to ABC News.

The health data were followed for nearly a year and their health data was compared with the data of more than 9,000 non-COVID-19 patients with similar characteristics.

According to the analysis published Wednesday in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers found that 9.5% of COVID-19 patients developed fatigue, which is one of the most common symptoms of long COVID, and that patients who’d been infected were 1.68 times more likely to develop fatigue than those who were not.

The risk of chronic fatigue – extreme fatigue that lasts for at least six months – after a COVID-19 infection was even greater, with patients who’d had the disease seeing a risk four times higher for the longer-term condition than those who had not.

“The high incidence rates of fatigue reinforce the need for public health actions to prevent infections, to provide clinical care to those in need, and to find effective treatments for post-acute COVID-19 fatigue,” the researchers wrote.

Fatigue following a COVID-19 diagnosis was more common among women than men and was more common among older than younger people in an unadjusted model, the research showed. It was also more prevalent among those with other medical conditions.

For the study, researchers said they considered chronic fatigue to be “a subset of fatigue” in general. They also noted it was not necessarily the same as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME/CFS, which relies on other symptoms for a diagnosis.

The diagnosis of chronic fatigue was seen in the 18 months after the COVID-19 infection suggesting a “persistent effect.”

ME/CFS can occur in some after infections and comes with severe fatigue. The CDC recently estimated some 3.3 million adults suffer from ME/CFS in 2021-2022.

According to federal survey data, more than 14% of U.S. adults had ever experienced long COVID as of October, and more than 4% faced some level of activity limitation due to the condition, the CDC reported. Long COVID is described as having symptoms lasting three months or longer that didn’t exist before having COVID-19.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most commonly reported symptoms of post-COVID-19 syndrome include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort,
  • Fever.
  • Lung (respiratory) symptoms, including difficulty breathing or shortness of breath and cough.

Other possible symptoms include:

  • Neurological symptoms or mental health conditions, including difficulty thinking or concentrating, headache, sleep problems, dizziness when you stand, pins-and-needles feeling, loss of smell or taste, and depression or anxiety.
  • Joint or muscle pain.
  • Heart symptoms or conditions, including chest pain and fast or pounding heartbeat.
  • Digestive symptoms, including diarrhea and stomach pain.
  • Blood clots and blood vessel (vascular) issues, including a blood clot that travels to the lungs from deep veins in the legs and blocks blood flow to the lungs (pulmonary embolism).
  • Other symptoms, such as a rash and changes in the menstrual cycle.

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