New CDC data report on Long COVID
Approximately 18 million U.S. adults — or almost 6.9% of people surveyed in 2022 — have had Long COVID. More than one million children under 18 years have also experienced Long COVID. These results were recently published in two data briefs by the CDC for adults and children. Data stem from the 2022 National Health Interview Survey of 27,651 adults and 7,464 children.
Long COVID is a serious health concern. Some individuals experience significant Long COVID symptoms that affect their quality of life and ability to work or go to school. A CDC report last year found that 81% of adults with Long COVID symptoms for 3+ months had limitations in their daily activities compared to before they had the virus. Additionally, 25% reported significant limitations. The latest CDC results point to the major consequences of this health issue for millions of Americans. News outlets across the country covered the story. Health advocates have also been demanding more attention to Long COVID. Not only must we determine how to treat individuals who suffer from Long COVID, but it’s critically important that we understand how to reduce the incidence of Long COVID in the first place.
Metformin taken during COVID infection reduces the incidence of Long COVID
That’s where the COVID-OUT clinical trial comes in. This controlled, blinded, randomized clinical trial run by the University of Minnesota evaluated three treatments for COVID-19 and studied their impact on Long COVID. The common diabetes medication metformin was superior to ivermectin and fluvoxamine on both measures. When taken within 7 days of COVID-19 symptoms, metformin reduced emergency room visits, hospitalization, and death by 42%. Treatment with metformin shortly after COVID-19 infection was also related to a 41% drop in the number of individuals who had Long COVID. Metformin actually reduced the amount of Sars-CoV-2 virus in recently-infected individuals.
Metformin is also one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States and is taken by more than 150 million people each year worldwide. This new treatment option is especially important for the approximately one in three patients who cannot take Paxlovid (Pfizer’s COVID treatment) because of conflicting medications or health conditions.
For more information on the COVID-OUT trial and details on metformin’s performance, see our COVID-19 page.
Long COVID symptoms and CDC report statistics
The CDC data brief defined Long COVID as having symptoms for three or more months after a COVID-19 infection. Long COVID has been difficult for scientists to study because the symptoms are so diverse, and are similar to symptoms of other health conditions. In addition, the symptoms can vary greatly between individuals. According to the CDC, the symptoms of Long COVID can include:
- General symptoms: fever, tiredness or fatigue, symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (also known as “post-exertional malaise”)
- Respiratory and heart symptoms: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, heart palpitations
- Neurological symptoms: “brain fog,” headache, sleep problems, dizziness, pins-and-needles feelings, change in smell or taste, depression or anxiety
- Digestive symptoms: diarrhea, stomach pain
- Other symptoms: joint or muscle pain, rash, changes in menstrual cycle
In addition to quantifying the number of people in the U.S. who have ever had Long COVID, the data briefs from the CDC also elaborated on a number of demographic characteristics. For example:
- Women and girls are significantly more likely to suffer from Long COVID
- Adults aged 35-49 had more incidence of Long COVID, while people 65 and older had fewer cases
- Children 12-17 years had more Long COVID than younger children
- Asian adults and children had fewer cases, while Hispanic children and adults had more cases of Long COVID
- Some differences the incidence of cases in various geographic locations related to urbanization and income were also noted in the report
Enhanced research efforts on Long COVID
A new government office has been formed to study Long COVID. The Office of Long COVID Research and Practice is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health will support Long COVID clinical trials through the RECOVER Initiative. We anticipate that this effort will accelerate research on Long COVID treatment options, and evaluate methods to reduce the incidence of Long COVID. The Parsemus Foundation supports the use of existing, safe, and inexpensive drugs (such as metformin) to reduce the health burden of COVID-19 and Long COVID. To learn more, visit our COVID-19 webpage and links.