1 in 3 COVID-19 patients suffer from long COVID, a CDC study of Long Beach residents finds

A COVID-19 vaccination clinic Long Beach City College Pacific Coast Campus on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 in Long Beach
A person gets a COVID-19 vaccination shot. A new study has found that one in three people who survived COVID-19 suffered from long COVID. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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One in three people who survived COVID-19 suffered from long COVID, according to a study of Long Beach residents published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday.

The study found that these long COVID patients reported at least one symptom of COVID-19 two months after first testing positive for the coronavirus.

There were higher rates of long COVID among people 40 or older, women, people with preexisting health conditions and Black residents, according to the study, conducted by UC Davis epidemiologists and the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services.

The survey was based on the responses of 366 adults in Long Beach who tested positive for the virus last year, before vaccinations were authorized for emergency use and began to be rolled out to healthcare workers.

The study found that 35% of survey responders reported at least one ongoing symptom of COVID-19 two months after the initial positive test.

Fatigue was reported by 17% of those long COVID patients; difficulty breathing and loss of taste or smell were reported by 13%; and muscle or joint pain was reported by 11%.

The study authors said the results are important to help experts “develop efforts to prioritize prevention and treatment strategies for” populations at higher risk of long COVID.

The study’s results are limited by the relatively small number of people surveyed, and it wasn’t possible to attribute symptoms to COVID-19 versus those that existed before coronavirus infection. It’s also possible that people with long COVID symptoms were more likely to respond to the survey, according to the report, making the study potentially overstate the problem.

“Further research, including research over longer periods, is warranted,” the study said.

The study was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Experts say that vaccination not only reduces the chance of falling ill with COVID-19, but it probably also reduces the chance of enduring long COVID should a vaccinated person contract a breakthrough infection.

Vaccinated people are far less likely to be infected or get severely ill from COVID-19 than unvaccinated people.

“If the virus can’t take hold in your body — if it can’t get into your system and if it can’t start replicating — then it doesn’t have a chance to get to the point where you might translate into having long-haul symptoms," Dr. Christina Ghaly, the L.A. County director of health services, said this year.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.