There's COVID and there's "long COVID"—the kind whose symptoms don't go away within four weeks, as they do for most people. The BBC reports researchers with King's College London estimate that 1 in 45 people end up being sick for at least 12 weeks, and they're out with a new study that tried to suss out the risk factors for this particular COVID experience. To get there, they analyzed data from the COVID Symptom Study app, which collects self-reported data on symptoms and test results. A "key risk factor," per Dr. Claire Steves, is having more than five unique symptoms in the first week of the illness—say, someone who had not just a cough but also fatigue, sore throat, loss of smell, and headache. And while some studies have found men are at a higher risk of dying from COVID, being female appears to be a risk factor for the long version.
The only medical conditions that seem linked to long COVID are asthma and lung disease. Those over 50 were also more likely to experience it. The researchers say it would be valuable to identify those at risk for long COVID at the get-go, says Steves, and "maybe give them preventative strategies, but also crucially, follow them up and make sure they get the rehabilitation they need." Vox reports there's currently no definition for just how long "long COVID" is, but it notes that research on other nasty coronaviruses like SARS found that 40% of those who were hospitalized for it experienced chronic fatigue symptoms more than 3 years later. Vox spoke with a Massachusetts woman who has been battling symptoms since March. Among them: fevers as many as five days a week, and breathlessness from going up a set of stairs. (Read more coronavirus stories.)