The risk of chronic fatigue among COVID-19 patients is soaring, says research

People who have had COVID-19 are at significantly higher risk of chronic fatigue than those who have not had the disease, according to a new study published Wednesday.

“Our data indicate that COVID-19 is associated with a significant increase in new fatigue diagnoses,” said the study, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“Physicians should be aware that fatigue can occur or be delayed until it is recognized [more than a year] after acute COVID-19,” the report said.

The study specifically looked at electronic health records from more than 4,500 patients in Washington state who had COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021 and compared them to patients who had not had COVID. The study found that the risk of chronic fatigue in those who had COVID was about four times greater than in people who had not contracted COVID.

Scientists have also looked at a broader definition of fatigue, which includes chronic fatigue as well as diagnoses of weakness and malaise. The study found that the risk of fatigue in COVID-19 patients was 68% higher in people who had had COVID-19 than in those who had not.

Of the 4,589 COVID-19 patients in the study, scientists identified 434 as “incident fatigue cases,” where the person was diagnosed with fatigue after recovering from COVID-19. Of these, 81 were also identified as having chronic fatigue, which is a subgroup of general fatigue.

The risk of chronic fatigue after COVID-19 was more common among women, older people and people with other medical conditions, the study said.

The report illustrates the lingering burden of long COVID, long after the emergency phase of the pandemic has ended. CDC survey data last year said that up to 15% of US adults had ever had a long COVID-19 episode and up to 6% of them were currently having a long COVID-19 episode.

Among those who have suffered long-term COVID – regardless of whether the person is hospitalized – fatigue is often a symptom.

Researchers for this study decided to focus on fatigue in COVID-19 patients because the symptom plays such a central role in people suffering from long-term COVID-19.

People who developed fatigue after COVID-19 had “much worse clinical outcomes,” the report said. Of the more than 400 patients who experienced post-COVID fatigue, 25.6% were hospitalized after an acute attack of COVID-19 during the study period. In contrast, only 13.6% of the more than 4,000 patients who did not develop post-COVID fatigue were subsequently hospitalized.

Patients who had post-COVID fatigue were also at higher risk of death than those who did not develop fatigue, the report said.

The report also warned that doctors should be alert to COVID patients with a history of mood disorders; Such patients “are also at increased risk of post-COVID-19 fatigue,” the report said.

Doctors say the risk of a long COVID-19 crisis is another reason to take sensible steps to prevent a coronavirus infection, including avoiding sick people, taking a test to detect a COVID-19 verify diagnosis and stay home if you are sick but asymptomatic. Masking in crowded indoor settings, staying up to date on vaccinations, and taking antiviral medications such as Paxlovid when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms can also help reduce the risk of long-term COVID-19.

People can become infected with the coronavirus multiple times, the CDC said saidand “every time a person is infected or reinfected… they are at risk of developing long-term COVID.”

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