'Long COVID' symptoms could linger for up to 9 months, study suggests

The prolonged COVID-19 symptoms people experience after initial infection, now known as 'Long COVID,' may persist for up to nine months in some cases, according to findings from a small study published Feb. 19 in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle issued a follow-up questionnaire to 234 patients with COVID-19. Of those, 177 people completed the survey: 11 were asymptomatic, 150 did not require hospitalization and had mild illness, and 16 had moderate or severe disease requiring hospitalization. 

Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, referenced the findings during a Feb. 24 White House press conference. 

"Approximately 30 percent of the patients who were enrolled at the University of Washington reported persistent symptoms for as long as nine months after illness," Dr. Fauci said, adding "Persistent symptoms were reported by one-third of outpatients with mild disease." 

Persistent fatigue and loss of sense or smell were the most common reported symptoms, according to the study.

The study acknowledges conflict of interest disclosures, including that a corresponding author received personal fees from Merck and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. Study grants had no role in any aspect of the research. 

The National Institutes of Health plans to lead a major research program to further evaluate the potential causes of Long-COVID, as well as methods to treat or prevent the conditions, the agency said Feb. 23.

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