In a sampling of U.S. adults tested for SARS-CoV-2, symptoms often associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection were common; 65.9% of respondents whose SARS-CoV-2 test results were positive reported symptoms lasting >4 weeks compared with 42.9% of those whose test results were negative. More persons who received positive test results (76.2%) reported persistence (>4 weeks) of at least one initially occurring symptom compared with those whose test results were negative (69.6%).
These findings can aid efforts to address post-COVID conditions and messaging on potential benefits of vaccination. 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.
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 healthcare 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.
Prevalence of post-COVID conditions has been reported among persons who have had COVID-19 with differences possibly related to different study populations, case definitions and data sources. 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 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found the prevalence of long-term symptoms often associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection was higher among respondents in the sample of adults reviewed who ever received a positive test result than among those who always received a negative test result, and symptoms in these persons tended to persist for >4 weeks.
Previous studies have found that non-hospitalized persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection have higher prevalence of some long-term symptoms or conditions than non-hospitalized persons with negative SARS-CoV-2 test results.. Similarly, in this investigation, more respondents who received a positive test result (65.9%) than those who received a negative test result (42.9%) experienced any long-term symptoms, and approximately one half of these symptoms were more likely to be reported among those who received a positive test result.