Long Covid responsible for thousands of US deaths, report says, but real numbers likely much higher

Long Covid responsible for thousands of US deaths, report says, but real numbers likely much higher


Long Covid leaves some people with long-lasting symptoms, but it can also be fatal. It played a role in at least 3,544 deaths in the United States in the first 30 months of the Covid-19 pandemic, says a new report.

The report is the first official attempt by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics to quantify the number of long-term deaths from Covid in the United States.

Some experts say this finding is likely a significant undercount, given that up to 30% of people who get Covid-19 have long-term symptoms, According to the CDC.

The research, published on Wednesday, analyzed death certificates in the National System of Vital Statistics from January 2020 to the end of June 2022.

The research was difficult because, unlike diseases like cancer or diabetes, SAD did not specifically in illness to monitor the long Covid during that time period.

Not every doctor, coroner or coroner fills out a death certificate the same way, so the researchers had to create a program to scan more than a million death certificates for the text. Since there is no single established term to describe long Covid, they included several key terms in their search, including “chronic Covid”, “long Covid” and “post COVID syndrome”.

They found that long-term deaths from Covid accounted for less than 0.3% of the 1,021,487 Covid-related deaths from January 2020 to June 2022. There were also some common elements among those who died.

Most of the people who died from prolonged Covid were white, older and male.

Specifically, 78.5% of deaths were among non-Hispanic whites. Non-Hispanics accounted for 10.1% of deaths, followed by Hispanics at 7.8%.

The death rate was highest among non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives, at 14.8 per 100,000 people.

Deaths from Covid-19 were disproportionately among people of color, CDC research shows, and a new report notes that more people who identify as black or Hispanic may have died from the initial disease before they could even develop long-term Covid. This could explain some of the racial differences in the new findings.

Studies also found that with more barriers to health care for people of color, some people who died may not have been able to see a doctor to get an official Covid diagnosis, so it wouldn’t have been recognized on the death certificate, according to the report.

Adults aged 75 to 84 accounted for 28.8 percent long deaths from Covid, followed by people aged 85 and over with 28.1% and people between 65 and 74 with 21.5%, the report said. In general, older adults are much more likely to die from Covid than the younger population, CDC data shows.

Men made up a slightly larger share of the deceased, 51.5%, which is in agreement with the others studies finding that being male was associated with a relative risk of developing severe Covid that was 1.29 times greater than the relative risk for females.

The new report had several limitations, including that the death toll is still provisional and could change. In addition, race is not always a reliable element on a death certificate, e.g studies showed that the race of thousands of Americans was misclassified on their birth certificates. And clinical guidelines on what is considered long-term Covid have changed during the pandemic, so death certificates may not fully reflect the condition.

The study is a good start, but it takes a “pretty myopic view” of long-term Covid-related deaths, said Dr. David Putrino, director of rehabilitation innovation for the Mount Sinai Health System.

“This is very clear data from people who got very sick, ended up in the hospital with permanent organ damage,” said Putrino, who works closely with long-term Covid patients but was not involved in the new report.

He says the research misses a significant number of people who could suffer from Covid for a long time and die as a result.

For example, some people who are not hospitalized for the initial infection, but get Covid long-term, continue to develop heart problems, studies show. Long Covid would not necessarily be entered in those death certificates, Putrino said.

“Every day we read about people who were previously healthy, got Covid, recovered and then had a heart attack or a stroke or a pulmonary embolism,” Putrino said.

This study may also miss people with long-term Covid who died by suicide; the condition would probably not be listed on their death certificates.

“We know right now that suicidal thoughts, suicidal acts, suicidal ideation and completed suicides are occurring across the country in people who were previously healthy, had a mild acute infection with Covid, but then developed very severe post-acute sequelae,” Putrino said.

He is encouraged that the CDC is looking into the issue of long-term Covid deaths.

“But again, we’re going to continue to get this kind of skewed data unless we educate doctors that there are many ways long Covid can cause death, just as there are many ways long Covid can cause permanent disability,” Putrino said. .

“People’s lives have been completely destroyed by Covid, so this incomplete data actually covers only a small part of the long experience with Covid,” he said. “There is more than one way to take your life away with long Covid. Death is just one of those ways.”

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