COVID Patients Face Elevated Health Risks Even Two Years Later, Washington University Study Finds

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A study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine reveals that individuals who have contracted COVID-19 face a considerably higher risk of developing health issues, including diabetes, blood clots, heart failure, lung conditions, and disorders affecting various organ systems, even up to two years after recovery.

Ziyad Al-Aly, a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University, mentions that over 90% of the U.S. population might have been infected with COVID-19, emphasizing the need for doctors to be aware of potential risks for their patients.

The study compared the health outcomes of over 138,000 COVID-19 patients with nearly 6 million non-infected individuals over a two-year period. It explored over 80 health conditions linked to long COVID using anonymous patient records from the VA. The researchers found that the estimate of long COVID patients is around 65 million, and this number is expected to grow.

The research revealed two distinct groups with varying risks: individuals who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 and those who were not. Non-hospitalized patients faced an elevated risk of death and hospitalization for about a year and a half after recovery, along with higher risks of conditions like diabetes, GI issues, fatigue, and joint pain even after two years. Hospitalized patients had an even greater risk across all organ systems, with these risks remaining elevated for many conditions even after two years.

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The study also calculated the burden of the disease in terms of disability-adjusted life years, showing that non-hospitalized patients lost about 80 healthy life years per 1,000 patients, while hospitalized patients lost a significant 643 years per 1,000 patients. Researchers stress the importance of addressing these post-infection conditions, as they continue to impact people’s lives, causing disability and reducing overall health.

Doctors and experts anticipate that more follow-ups and screenings will be necessary to manage lingering post-infection problems, especially neurological symptoms like brain fog. The study emphasizes the urgency of developing treatments for long COVID and using current vaccines to mitigate its impact. The researchers plan to continue analyzing long COVID’s effects over the coming years, aiming to alleviate its burden on patients, the healthcare system, and public health as a whole.

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