A recent study conducted by the Michigan COVID-19 Recovery Surveillance Report (MI CReSS) found that Long COVID disproportionately affects women, Hispanics and low income households.
Long COVID refers to prolonged or persistent COVID-19 symptoms lasting at least 90 days following the onset of COVID-19 symptoms among SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals, according to the World Health Organization. Long COVID has been documented to occur in individuals with all levels of COVID-19 (asymptomatic, mild, moderate, severe). It can either start as a sporadic onset or persist from the first contraction of COVID-19, and those who suffer from the condition usually report that symptoms fluctuate over time.
Katharine Seagly, the Co-Director of the Post-Covid Conditions Clinic, wrote an email to The Michigan Daily about why these minority groups are most affected by the disease.
“It is disheartening to hear (the results), but sadly not surprising,” Seagly wrote. “We know that health and well-being, and conversely, chronic illness, are highly impacted by systemic and social factors that are beyond an individual’s control, such as proximity to good care, access to health education, insurance coverage, overall burden of stress, and of course complex systemic biases against minoritized groups, in health care and society as a whole.”
The study used a representative sample with respect to age, sex and geographic region of 9,000 confirmed cases of non-institutionalized adults in Michigan who contracted COVID-19 prior to April 15, 2021. This particular report includes data on 2,703 respondents and focuses on prevalence estimates of Long COVID.
The key findings show that among the 2,703 respondents, 21.4% had 90-Day Long COVID. Among these, the disease was more prevalent among females (25.0%) than males (17.2%), Hispanics (30.1%) than other racial/ethnic populations (<26.7%) and respondents with a household income during 2019 between $25,000 and $49,000 (25.5%) than above (<20.1%). Other group comparisons were discussed as well.
Ross senior Julio Berrocal spoke in an interview with The Daily about the University’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a Latin American international student, I always felt positively about the University’s measures to combat COVID,” Berrocal said. “Although some particular measures seemed very strict, I believe all of them had the correct sentiment behind them: Keep students as safe as possible.”
Jana Hirschtick, a U-M Public Health research assistant, spoke with The Daily about how these findings should be incorporated into the Michigan healthcare system.
“The first (change that can be made) is providing quality healthcare regardless of insurance status,” Hirschtick said. “For COVID-19, that ranges from vaccine access to Long COVID clinics. I commend Michigan Medicine for having a Long COVID clinic. However, in looking at their website, it requires a history of lab-confirmed COVID-19 and also a referral from a primary care doctor, and both of those things are based on existing access to healthcare.”
Hirschtick said researchers are still uncertain about how long Long COVID can last.
“The research is all over the place, and that’s because we don’t have a uniform case definition for Long COVID,” Hirschtick explained.
The CDC defines the disease as the presence of any symptom four weeks after infection. The MI CReSS study defines it as having ongoing symptoms 90 days post infection.
“Most studies are looking at any symptoms, so someone with a persistent runny nose is in the same bucket as someone with shortness of breath,” Hirshtick said. “It’s hard to get a handle of who has Long COVID in terms of those definitions.”
However, Hirschtick remains hopeful that more information will be available soon.
“For the MI CReSS, we just started a follow-up component to follow-up at least 1 year after, so we will be able to get a better handle on the proportion of people who are still experiencing Long COVID symptoms at least a year after their initial symptoms onset,” Hirschtick said.
Daily Staff Contributor Azul Cibils Blaquier can be reached at email@example.com.