Most people with long COVID did not have an initial infection that would be considered serious, according to a FAIR Health whitepaper based on private insurance claims.

In the analysis of over 78,000 people diagnosed with post-COVID illness, 75.8% had first cases of SARS-CoV-2 that did not require hospitalization, the report said.

Long COVID can involve a variety of health problems that develop at least 4 weeks after SARS-CoV-2 infection, and the sometimes debilitating condition can include symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, or headaches.

Respiratory disorders (23%), cough (19%) and fatigue/malaise (17%) were the most common post-COVID symptoms observed in the FAIR Health analysis, but other common symptoms were high blood pressure, chest or throat pain, Anxiety, including asthma, type 2 diabetes and heartbeat abnormalities (all over 5%).

These conditions were far more common in women (59.8% versus 40.2% in men), despite a less marked difference in the proportion of cases diagnosed with COVID-19 in the FAIR Health databases (53.8% versus 46, 2%). The majority of patients diagnosed with post-COVID conditions were aged 36-50 (34.6%) and 51-64 (32%).

“Post-COVID conditions have become a topic of growing national concern,” said Robin Gelburd, President of FAIR Health, in a statement. “We hope these findings will prove helpful to all individuals diagnosed with post-COVID conditions, as well as providers, payers, policymakers and researchers.”

The report examined 78,252 people with post-COVID conditions identified from October 2021 – when the ICD-10 code (U09.9) for post-COVID conditions was first introduced – to January 2022 using the private claims database by FAIR Health. For those originally hospitalized for COVID, the median length of stay ranged from 5.3 days for children under 12 to 10 days for children over 65.

Overall, 30.7% of people with post-COVID conditions had no pre-existing chronic comorbidities prior to their COVID-19 infection, 13.2% had one, 20.6% had two or three, 14.9% had four or five Pre-existing conditions and 20.7% had six or more.

The report found that certain age groups were more likely to develop specific post-COVID conditions, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children ages 12 and under, heartbeat abnormalities in ages 13-22, anxiety in ages 23-35 years and hypertensive disorders in those over 65 years of age.

Diagnoses of “other or unspecified myopathies” were 11.1 times more common in people after a post-COVID diagnosis, while pulmonary embolism was 2.6 times more common, and postviral fatigue syndrome, certain types of encephalopathy, and certain brain disorders were twice as common occurred .

“On average, patients with a U09.9 post-COVID condition in all age groups had higher Department of Health & Human Services risk scores-hierarchical condition category (HHS-HCC) after their diagnosis,” the report said. These risk assessments identify patients who are “likely to consume more healthcare resources and potentially incur more healthcare-related costs in the long run.”

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    Zaina Hamza is a MedPage Today contributor specializing in gastroenterology and infectious diseases. She lives in Chicago.

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