Persistence of symptoms up to 10 months following acute COVID-19 illness

medRxiv. 2021 Mar 8;2021.03.07.21253072. doi: 10.1101/2021.03.07.21253072. Preprint


Importance: COVID-19 symptoms are increasingly recognized to persist among a subset of individual following acute infection, but features associated with this persistence are not well-understood.

Objective: We aimed to identify individual features that predicted persistence of symptoms over at least 2 months at the time of survey completion.Design: Non-probability internet survey. Participants were asked to identify features of acute illness as well as persistence of symptoms at time of study completion. We used logistic regression models to examine association between sociodemographic and clinical features and persistence of symptoms at or beyond 2 months.

Setting: Ten waves of a fifty-state survey between June 13, 2020 and January 13, 2021.

Participants: 6,211 individuals who reported symptomatic COVID-19 illness confirmed by positive test or clinician diagnosis.

Exposure: symptomatic COVID-19 illness.

Results: Among 6,211 survey respondents reporting COVID-19 illness, with a mean age of 37.8 (SD 12.2) years and 45.1% female, 73.9% white, 10.0% Black, 9.9% Hispanic, and 3.1% Asian, a total of 4946 (79.6%) had recovered within less than 2 months, while 491 (7.9%) experienced symptoms for 2 months or more. Of the full cohort, 3.4% were symptomatic for 4 months or more and 2.2% for 6 months or more. In univariate analyses, individuals with persistent symptoms on average reported greater initial severity. In logistic regression models, older age was associated with greater risk of persistence (OR 1.10, 95% CI 1.01-1.19 for each decade beyond 40); otherwise, no significant associations with persistence were identified for gender, race/ethnicity, or income. Presence of headache was significantly associated with greater likelihood of persistence (OR 1.44, 95% CI 1.11-1.86), while fever was associated with diminished likelihood of persistence (OR 0.66, 95% CI 0.53-0.83).

Conclusion and relevance: A subset of individuals experience persistent symptoms from 2 to more than 10 months after acute COVID-19 illness, particularly those who recall headache and absence of fever. In light of this prevalence, strategies for predicting and managing such sequelae are needed.

Trial registration: NA.

Key points: Question: Which individuals are at greatest risk for post-acute sequelae of COVID-19?Findings: In this non-probability internet survey, among 6,211 individuals with symptomatic COVID-19 illness, 7.9% experienced persistence of symptoms lasting 2 months or longer. Older age, but not other sociodemographic features, was associated with risk for persistence, as was headache.Meaning: Identifying individuals at greater risk for symptomatic persistence may facilitate development of targeted interventions.

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