Is it true that Covid-19 symptoms can last for months?

Clinical Symptoms Infection and Spread

Introducing Nerdy Guest Michelle L. Frisco, PhD, who joins us to talk about “Covid long haulers”. Dr. Frisco is Associate Professor of Sociology & Demography at Penn State University. She studies population health.

A: Yes. Some people who contract Covid-19 seem to deal with consistent or recurring symptoms for a long time.

Q: How common is long-term illness?

A: Like many questions about this novel virus, we just don’t know yet! Data on recovery times are very limited. Survivor Corps on Facebook and the Body Politic Covid-19 Support Group have members who have given interviews and conducted some research. A survey of 640 people with symptoms lasting longer than 2 weeks found that the average recovery time from Covid-19 was 27 days and of those not yet recovered, the average number of days with symptoms was 40 days. One third of respondents were still managing symptoms 7 weeks after contracting Covid-19. In this sample, 82% of respondents were 20-59 years old and only 57.8% had a pre-existing condition. A just-released study of formerly hospitalized Italian Covid-19 survivors also found that roughly 2 months after Covid-19 onset, 87.4% of patients still reported symptoms and 44% reported a worsened quality of life. (See links to studies below.)

Q: This sounds really frightening. Should I be worried?

A: Keep in mind that support group members don’t represent the general population, a point made in the study by the authors! Patients who are hospitalized are also very ill. But, the findings above and interviews with Covid-19 patients suggest that we still don’t know enough about the risk of long-term Covid-19 symptoms and some younger patients seem to remain sick for a long time.

Q: Do any of the Nerdy Crew know anyone who has battled long-term symptoms?

A: Yes! This Nerdy Guest does. Her friend is a “Covid long-hauler” and he graciously agreed to be interviewed for Dear Pandemic. He became ill on February 26th and still isn’t healthy 137 days later. His take home message to Dear Pandemic Readers? “I’m an athletic 45-year old with no pre-existing conditions and have had my entire life turned upside down because of this. This is not a 2-day flu for me.” Click here for the full interview with Chris.

Need a support group?

More op-eds and news articles on long-term Covid-19 illness:
The Atlantic
Stat News

Data Sources:
Body Politic report

Link to original FB post