Long COVID might be a bigger problem than researchers thought

Long COVID may be affecting people who were asymptomatic during their infections at a higher rate than researchers expected, a new study conducted by the nonprofit FAIR Health suggests, The New York Times reports.

The study analyzed the health insurance records of 2 million people diagnosed with COVID-19 and found that 23 percent of them later sought medical treatment for new conditions. Among the overall group, rates were highest for people who had dealt with serious bouts of the disease, but even 19 percent of the people who were asymptomatic experienced subsequent medical issues, a figure that surprised FAIR Health's research team, the organization's president Robin Gelburd told the Times.

The study deserves praise for its size and "ability to look across the range of disease severity in a diversity of age groups," said Dr. Helen Chu, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of Washington School of Medicine. At the same time, like most studies, it doesn't paint a complete a picture. Per the Times, it's possible that some of the asymptomatic patients later developed symptoms after their diagnosis, and the study also doesn't compare people who had COVID-19 with those who didn't, so it's not clear whether the medical treatment rates are similar. On the latter point, though, smaller studies have suggested that previously infected patients do, in fact, require treatment more often. Read more at The New York Times.

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Tim O'Donnell

Tim is a staff writer at The Week and has contributed to Bedford and Bowery and The New York Transatlantic. He is a graduate of Occidental College and NYU's journalism school. Tim enjoys writing about baseball, Europe, and extinct megafauna. He lives in New York City.