One-Third of Coronavirus Patients — Who Weren't Hospitalized — Have Lingering Illness Weeks Later

"COVID-19 can result in prolonged illness even among persons with milder outpatient illness, including young adults," a new CDC report said

woman coughing
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COVID-19 symptoms can linger for long after a person has been diagnosed with the virus, even if they did not have a severe illness that required hospitalization, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed in a new report.

Social media forums like Twitter and Reddit are filled with COVID-19 patients who say they are still having trouble with fatigue, coughing and breathing, sometimes months after they tested positive. This new CDC report, a survey of 292 people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and able to recover at home, acknowledged that recovery can take several weeks, with one-third of patients saying they are still experiencing symptoms.

"COVID-19 can result in prolonged illness even among persons with milder outpatient illness, including young adults," the study authors wrote.

The survey included COVID-19 patients in a range of ages who tested positive between April 15 and June 25. The researchers asked them about their symptoms two to three weeks after they were tested.

Almost all — 94 percent — of those surveyed had at least one symptom when they tested positive. Of that group, 35 percent said they “had not returned to their usual state of health.”

Their lingering symptoms ranged from a cough — 43 percent — to fatigue, 35 percent and shortness of breath, 29 percent.

Most — 47 percent — with continued symptoms were 50 or older, but 32 percent of the group were in the 35 to 49 age range, and 26 percent were 18 to 34 years old, highlighting the effects of COVID-19 on everyone, even young adults.

One in five younger people with no preexisting conditions said that they were still dealing with lingering symptoms.

"This report indicates that even among symptomatic adults tested in outpatient settings, it might take weeks for resolution of symptoms and return to usual health," the authors wrote.

This report, published Friday, comes as researchers are finding other ways COVID-19 lingers in the body. New research from Germany found that three-quarters of recovered COVID-19 patients had structural changes to their heart, even two months later.

The CDC report also pointed out that the recovery time appears to be far longer than the seasonal flu: “In contrast, over 90% of outpatients with influenza recover within approximately 2 weeks of having a positive test result.”

Their findings show, the researchers said, that COVID-19 needs to be taken seriously by people of all ages.

“Public health messaging should target populations that might not perceive COVID-19 illness as being severe or prolonged, including young adults and those without chronic underlying medical conditions,” they said. “Preventative measures, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and the consistent and correct use of face coverings in public, should be strongly encouraged to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19].”

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