Oct 17, 2022 - COVID

Long COVID affecting thousands of Ohioans

Data: CDC Household Pulse Survey; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Nearly a third of Americans who know they've had COVID-19 say they've also experienced the lingering, often debilitating aftereffects known as long COVID.

  • That includes 28% of Ohioans, ranking us 31st among states, according to a recent CDC survey of 50,000 people.

Why it matters: What causes long COVID still isn't well understood, but it can include a wide range of symptoms — such as fatigue, brain fog and shortness of breath — months and sometimes years after infection.

  • Up to 4 million Americans are estimated to be currently out of work because of it, while also incurring costly medical bills, per an August Brookings Institute report. That's about four times the number of people who have died from the virus.

The big picture: The rate of those reporting long COVID symptoms was highest in West Virginia (49%), which ranked first.

  • Vermont had the lowest rate (22%).

Of note: The CDC data is limited to adults and doesn't specify whether a respondent was unvaccinated or if their bout with the virus was severe — two factors the CDC says heighten long COVID risk.

Threat level: A study published last week in JAMA Network Open found the illness could set individuals back the equivalent of a decades' worth of aerobic fitness, the Washington Post reported.

What's happening: Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center established a Post-COVID Recovery Program in spring 2021 for patients with lingering symptoms.

  • It treated about 800 people in its first year.

What they're saying: In an article from the hospital, Dr. Aaron Friedberg compares recovery to clearing flooding and wreckage after a devastating storm.

  • Many patients "feel like they ran a marathon after walking around the block," Friedberg tells Axios.
  • They may also struggle with mental health issues related to COVID's effects on the brain or the challenges of managing a new chronic illness.

Between the lines: Long COVID is disproportionately impacting Americans who are Black, Hispanic or disabled — three groups that have shouldered outsized burdens throughout the pandemic, Axios' Sabrina Moreno reports.

What's next: Medical researchers' search for an effective treatment is proving difficult, Axios' Tina Reed reports.

Go deeper: Axios AM Deep Dive: Long COVID crisis


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