Most adults who test positive for the virus that causes Covid-19 don’t need hospital care but do seek medical help in the months that follow, and two-thirds of those who seek treatment will be diagnosed with a new health condition they’ve had previously no new study reports.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, enrolled approximately 3,171 members of Kaiser Permanente Georgia’s Integrated Health System. More than half were black.
The message for patients is that even with mild Covid-19, “months after initial diagnosis, new or persistent symptoms may appear,” said Dr. Alfonso C. Hernandez-Romieu, Infectious Disease Specialist at the CDC, who was the lead author of the study. “And it’s important that people make sure they see their doctors,” he said to express their concerns.
“It is equally important,” he added, “that clinicians recognize that there can be these long-term effects and really make sure that they validate patients, treat them with empathy, and try to do their best to help them.” . ”
Doctors need to monitor patients for Covid-19-related complications that can be very serious, such as blood clots, he said.
The study did not compare patients who tested positive for the coronavirus with patients who did not test positive. As a result, the authors couldn’t tell whether people who recovered from mild Covid-19 disease made more doctor visits than those who never had the virus.
Two-thirds of patients with mild illness sought medical help a month to six months after their Covid-19 diagnosis, and about two-thirds of patients who sought treatment had a completely new condition. The new diagnoses included cough, shortness of breath, heart rate disturbances, chest or sore throat, and fatigue, “which are likely to be persistent Covid-19 symptoms,” the study said.
Those who received more medical attention included adults ages 50 and older, women, and those with underlying health conditions. Black adults were also slightly more likely to seek care than others. Overall, however, the authors found that the number of visits decreased over time.
The potential for long-term complications, even after a mild course of the disease, underscores the need for preventive measures and vaccinations, said Dr. Hernandez-Romieu.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about post-Covid conditions,” he said. “Even if the majority of people don’t have severe Covid or end up in the hospital, the potential for long-term health effects is really important.”