Thousands of death certificates previously matched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as deaths from COVID-19 were actually related toongoing symptoms that some people for weeks, months or even years following their initial recovery from a coronavirus infection.
New findings from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, published Wednesday, count at least 3,544 long COVID-linked deaths through June 2022 — a number researchers say is an underestimate of the true toll. Is.
only makes up 0.3% of the tallyCOVID death certificates reviewed by the agency. They looked for keywords in the reported cause of death for what doctors call “post-acute sequelae of COVID-19,” or PASC, including “chronic COVID,” “long COVID,” “long haul COVID,” and “post words are included. Covid syndrome.”
They say the understanding of how to classify these symptoms by coroners and doctors filling out death certificates has evolved over the course of the pandemic.
NCHS official Farida Ahmed, one of the report’s authors, told a panel of outside consultants to the agency in October, “We have limited information about long-term Covid mortality.” “There are currently no estimates of the number of long COVID deaths in the US and this is due to a number of challenges. Long COVID diagnostic guidelines are evolving over time as we understand more about the condition, so there is no simple Covid is not a diagnostic test.”
New federal guidance that aims to standardize the reporting of these deaths has not yet been published. Ahmad told the panel earlier this year that the agency planned to issue its own new recommendations based on the report’s findings. An NCHS spokeswoman said the agency is still planning to publish the new recommendations, but said there is no date yet for when they will be released.
Nearly 8 in 10 of the reported tall COVID deaths occurred in seniors, with Americans aged 75-84 making up the largest percentage (28.8%) of these deaths. About 8 in 10 of the reported deaths were in white people, and rates for men were higher than for women in almost every age group.
Reports of long-term COVID deaths varied greatly during the pandemic, with many reporting an Omicron surge last winter. The highest monthly toll was in February 2022.
More than two-thirds of deaths mentioning long COVID were on certificates citing COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death. Heart disease was the second most frequent underlying cause, cited in 8.6% of protracted COVID deaths.
Symptoms and toll of the long COVID
Scientists are continuing to study how to diagnose and treat the broad spectrum of reported chronic COVID symptoms, which can range from difficulty breathing to changes in the menstrual cycle. Some other common symptoms include fatigue; “post-exercise malaise,” means feeling worse after exercise or exertion; “brain fog,” headache, cough, chest pain, or abdominal pain.
Patients may experience organ damage that may persist long after the acute phase of the infection has passed.
A review by the authors of Veterans Affairs, published earlier this year, found major organ damage between 2% and 22% of studies of COVID-19 patients after they left the hospital. Some were at higher risk of new issues, such as stroke, after discharge.
An ongoing survey published by the CDC in conjunction with the US Census Bureau estimated in November that about 5.4% of adults say they are experiencing limits to what they can do as a result of prolonged COVID.
However, simply matching the true prevalence of COVID over a long period of time has remained elusive to scientists.
Officials say many people may not even know they had a COVID infection before symptoms develop, or they may struggle to find out if they have recovered from their prolonged COVID symptoms.
Another NCHS project is conducting in-depth “cognitive interviews” with survivors of COVID-19 to find out how they answer survey questions about lingering symptoms.
“Another follow-up question we asked was: ‘Do you still experience any of these symptoms?’ NCHS scientist Meredith Massey, who participated in the interviews, said at the agency’s October meeting, one respondent replied, ‘I don’t know.’
“This respondent elaborated, ‘Maybe, I don’t have a clue. I don’t know if my taste is fully back or not because my taste memory is not the same as before,'” Massey said.