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Virus Experts Just Issued This Important Update

It's worth taking precautions to avoid COVID.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Researchers at UCLA just released results of a study that found 30% of people who contracted COVID-19 experience symptoms of "long COVID," a mysterious syndrome of long-lasting symptoms that can range from annoying to debilitating. That's why researchers say it's worth taking precautions to avoid COVID—being vaccinated and boosted reduces your risk of catching the virus and developing long COVID, as do other safety precautions like masking. Here's the latest on what the UCLA study found. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

What the Study Found

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In a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, researchers looked at more than 1,000 people who had tested positive for COVID-19 between April 2020 and February 2021. They found that one-third of those people reported symptoms of "long COVID." The most common in people who'd been hospitalized: Fatigue (experienced by 31%) and shortness of breath (15%). Among people who hadn't needed hospital care, 16% reported losing their sense of smell.

2

These People More, Less Likely to Develop Long COVID

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The study had some surprising findings. "People with a history of hospitalization, diabetes, and higher body mass index were most likely to develop the condition, while those covered by Medicaid, as opposed to commercial health insurance, or had undergone an organ transplant were less likely to develop it," the researchers wrote. "Surprisingly, ethnicity, older age, and socioeconomic status were not associated with the syndrome even though those characteristics have been linked with severe illness and greater risk of death from COVID-19." The scientists aren't sure why, and they encouraged other studies to follow up.

3

What Is Long COVID?

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Long COVID—officially known as post-acute sequelae of COVID infection (or PASC)—has been reported since the early weeks of the pandemic. More than 100 long COVID symptoms—which endure for weeks or months after the virus has technically cleared the body—have been reported by those affected. Why some people develop long COVID and some people don't is still largely a mystery to researchers. But another UCLA study released this week may shed light on why.

4

Could Long COVID Be Caused By a Weak Immune System?

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UCLA researchers studying a monoclonal antibody treatment found that an abnormally suppressed immune system may cause long COVID symptoms—not an unusually hyperactive one, as has been theorized. They found that people who took the antibody treatment and saw the most symptom improvement had weaker immune systems to begin with, not more active ones. Although the scientists caution this was a small initial study and more research is needed, they suggest bolstering immunity might be a way forward in treating long COVID.

5

How to Stay Safe Out There

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Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael