CDC: COVID-19 Can Result in Prolonged Illness, Even for Previously Healthy Young Adults
A report published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that COVID-19 can result in prolonged illness even among individuals with milder, outpatient illness. CDC stresses that its findings include young adults without underlying chronic medical conditions. Researchers interviewed a random sample of symptomatic adults who had a positive test result for SARS-CoV-2. The interviews were conducted by telephone 14–21 days after testing and collected demographic characteristics, baseline chronic medical conditions, symptoms present at the time of testing, and other information. According to CDC’s report, approximately one-third of the individuals who were interviewed said they had not returned to usual health within two to three weeks of being tested. And 19 percent of young adults aged 18–34 years with no chronic medical conditions reported not having returned to usual health during the same time period.
Ninety-four percent of the 292 respondents reported having one or more symptoms of COVID-19 at the time of testing. Among those symptomatic respondents, 35 percent reported not having returned to their usual state of health by the date of the interview. CDC’s researchers note that 26 percent of interviewees aged 18–34 years, 32 percent aged 35–49 years, and 47 percent aged 50 years or older said they were not back to usual health within two to three weeks of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. The presence of chronic medical conditions such as hypertension, obesity, asthma, and diabetes also affected return-to-health rates: a greater percentage of persons with multiple conditions reported that they had not returned to their usual state of health than those with zero or one chronic medical condition. But nearly one in five previously healthy young adults with no chronic medical conditions had not yet returned to their usual state of health by the time they were interviewed.
“These findings have important implications for understanding the full effects of COVID-19, even in persons with milder outpatient illness,” CDC’s report reads. “Notably, convalescence can be prolonged even in young adults without chronic medical conditions, potentially leading to prolonged absence from work, studies, or other activities.”
The report urges the use of preventive measures such as social distancing, frequent handwashing, and the consistent, correct use of face coverings in public to help slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2. CDC researchers also stress the importance of effective public health messaging intended for groups that might not perceive COVID-19 illness as severe or prolonged, including young adults and those without underlying chronic medical conditions.
Further details are available in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.