Long-Term Symptoms Among Adults Tested for SARS-CoV-2 - United States, January 2020-April 2021

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021 Sep 10;70(36):1235-1241. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7036a1.


Long-term symptoms often associated with COVID-19 (post-COVID conditions or long COVID) are an emerging public health concern that is not well understood. Prevalence of post-COVID conditions has been reported among persons who have had COVID-19 (range = 5%-80%), with differences possibly related to different study populations, case definitions, and data sources (1). Few studies of post-COVID conditions have comparisons with the general population of adults with negative test results for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, limiting ability to assess background symptom prevalence (1). CDC used a nonprobability-based Internet panel established by Porter Novelli Public Services* to administer a survey to a nationwide sample of U.S. adults aged ≥18 years to compare the prevalence of long-term symptoms (those lasting >4 weeks since onset) among persons who self-reported ever receiving a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result with the prevalence of similar symptoms among persons who reported always receiving a negative test result. The weighted prevalence of ever testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 was 22.2% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 20.6%-23.8%). Approximately two thirds of respondents who had received a positive test result experienced long-term symptoms often associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Compared with respondents who received a negative test result, those who received a positive test result reported a significantly higher prevalence of any long-term symptom (65.9% versus 42.9%), fatigue (22.5% versus 12.0%), change in sense of smell or taste (17.3% versus 1.7%), shortness of breath (15.5% versus 5.2%), cough (14.5% versus 4.9%), headache (13.8% versus 9.9%), and persistence (>4 weeks) of at least one initially occurring symptom (76.2% versus 69.6%). Compared with respondents who received a negative test result, a larger proportion of those who received a positive test result reported believing that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine made their long-term symptoms better (28.7% versus 15.7%). Efforts to address post-COVID conditions should include helping health care professionals recognize the most common post-COVID conditions and optimize care for patients with persisting symptoms, including messaging on potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccination.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 Testing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult