1 in 5 young adults in US didn't recover from Covid-19 even after 14-21 days despite no underlying condition: CDC

Covid-19 can result in prolonged illness even among young adults without chronic medical conditions and experts say public health messaging targeting these groups is a must


                            1 in 5 young adults in US didn't recover from Covid-19 even after 14-21 days despite no underlying condition: CDC
(Getty Images)

Recovery from Covid-19 can take a long time even in young adults with no chronic health issues, warn experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among previously healthy young adults aged 18-34 years with no persistent medical conditions, nearly one in five said that they had not returned to their usual state of health 14-21 days after testing positive for Covid-19. None of these patients needed to be hospitalized. In contrast, over 90% of outpatients with influenza recover within approximately two weeks of having a positive test result, says the agency.

According to the authors, public health messaging should target populations that might not perceive Covid-19 illness as being severe or prolonged, including young adults and those without chronic underlying medical conditions. "The findings indicate that Covid-19 can result in prolonged illness and persistent symptoms, even among persons with milder outpatient illness, including young adults. Effective public health messaging targeting these groups is warranted. Preventative measures, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and the consistent and correct use of face coverings in public, should be strongly encouraged to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19)," says the agency.

The research team says that prolonged illness is well described in adults with severe Covid-19 requiring hospitalization, especially among older adults. Recently, the number of coronavirus infections in persons first evaluated as outpatients have increased, including cases among younger adults. But relatively little is known about the clinical course of Covid-19 and return to baseline health for people with milder, outpatient illness. A better understanding of recovery and symptom duration among outpatients with Covid-19 can help direct care, inform interventions to reduce transmission and tailor public health messaging, says the CDC. Accordingly, researchers conducted a multistate telephone survey of 292 symptomatic adults who tested positive for Covid-19 and were treated as an outpatient at one of 14 US academic health care systems in 13 states from April 15 until June 25. Interviews were conducted 14-21 days after the test date. 

The research team conducted a telephone survey of symptomatic adults who tested positive for Covid-19 and were treated as an outpatient at one of 14 US academic health care systems in 13 states from April 15 until June 25. Interviews were conducted 14-21 days after the test date (Getty Images)

Of those surveyed, 94% (274) reported experiencing one or more symptoms at the time of testing. The analysis shows that 35% (95 patients) had not returned to their usual state of health when interviewed two to three weeks after testing. This includes 26% among those aged 18-34 years, 32% among those aged 35-49 years, and 47% among those aged 50 years and above. Among respondents reporting cough, fatigue or shortness of breath at the time of testing, 43%, 35% and 29%, respectively, continued to experience these symptoms at the time of the interview, 14 to 21 days after receiving a positive test result. 

The presence of chronic conditions also affected return to health rates. Among 180 persons with no or one chronic medical condition, 39 with two chronic medical conditions and 44 with three or more chronic medical conditions, 28%, 46% and 57%, respectively, reported not having returned to their usual state of health within 14-21 days after having a positive test result. Among respondents aged 18-34 years with no chronic medical condition, 19% (nine of 48) reported not having returned to their usual state of health, says the CDC.

"This report indicates that even among symptomatic adults tested in outpatient settings, it might take weeks for resolution of symptoms and return to usual health. Not returning to usual health within 2-3 weeks of testing was reported by approximately one-third of respondents. Even among young adults aged 18-34 years with no chronic medical conditions, nearly one in five reported that they had not returned to their usual state of health 14-21 days after testing," write authors. 

"Older age and the presence of multiple chronic medical conditions have previously been associated with illness severity among adults hospitalized with Covid-19. in this study, both were also associated with prolonged illness in an outpatient population. These findings have important implications for understanding the full effects of Covid-19, even in persons with milder outpatient illness. Notably, convalescence can be prolonged even in young adults without chronic medical conditions, potentially leading to prolonged absence from work, studies, or other activities," the researchers caution.

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