Is the risk of becoming long COVID decreasing? Here’s what the experts say

The clue to this extraordinary possibility comes from tens of thousands of responses to US Census Bureau questionnaires that show a decreasing percentage of COVID survivors reporting long COVID symptoms – the lingering and often debilitating effects of the disease that studies have historically shown in approximately 19% of COVID Survivors.

Last June, the Census Bureau, in partnership with the National Center for Health Statistics, added questions about long COVID to its “Household Pulse Survey”, a primarily monthly online questionnaire launched in April 2020 to assess the impact of the pandemic.

The survey defines long COVID as symptoms lasting at least three months after a coronavirus infection. About 200 symptoms have been identified, with deep fatigue, heart palpitations, neurological complications and digestive disorders among the most frequent.

An average of 58,794 COVID survivors nationwide have responded to each of the nine lengthy COVID surveys offered by the Census Bureau so far. An analysis by Chronicle found a remarkable trend: a consistently lower rate of people in each survey reporting lengthy COVID symptoms.

In June, 18.9% of respondents said they were “currently experiencing” a long COVID. By the end of the year, that figure had fallen to 11.3% and by February to 10.8%.

In California, the percentage of people reporting current symptoms increased slightly in July and October, but otherwise mirrored the national trend, dropping from 16.2% in June to 10.3% in February.

“Fascinating,” said Dr. Steven Deeks, a longtime COVID researcher at UCSF unrelated to the investigations. “These trends seem consistent with the anecdotal experience we and others have had.”

Research shows that people can get long COVID whether their initial infection was severe or mild. Scientists point to three likely causes: virus fragments that remain hidden in the body, persistent inflammation caused by the coronavirus, and autoimmunity – when the body’s immune system turns against itself. These, in turn, can wreak havoc on the body months or even years later.

But is the virus’ “ability to cause long COVID waning?” Deeks asked. “That is indeed a question posed by this data.”

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