People view thousands of white flags representing Americans who have died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) placed on over 20 acres of the National Mall in Washington, United States, on September 26, 2021.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters
Long Covid has contributed to the deaths of more than 3,500 people since the pandemic began, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is the first official US estimate of how many people have died from the mysterious illnesses affecting people months after they were first infected with Covid. Long Covid played a role in less than 1% of the more than 1 million deaths from Covid-19 recorded from January 2020 through June 2022, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics report.
CDC analysts examined death certificates from January 2020 through June 2022 that listed Covid as a contributory or underlying cause of death. The analysts then looked more closely at those death certificates to identify the language that indicates Covid has long played a role in the death.
The US had not established an official diagnosis code for long Covid at the time of the study. As a result, analysts chose common terms for the condition, including “chronic Covid”, “long-distance Covid”, “long-distance Covid”, “long-distance Covid” and “post-Covid” among others.
The authors said the report may underestimate the true number of long-Covid deaths because clinical guidelines for identifying and reporting the condition have changed over time. This means the study may have missed other key terms on death certificates that suggest Covid has long played a role.
According to the report, the long Covid deaths peaked in April 2022 at 3.8% of all Covid deaths. Seniors aged 75 and older accounted for about 57% of the 2,490 long Covid deaths with detailed demographic information.
The long Covid death rate was highest among Native Americans and Alaska Natives at 14.8 per 100,000. Overall, most of the people who died from long Covid, 78.5%, were white, according to the report. Ten percent were black and 7.8 percent Hispanic.
Scientists still don’t fully understand what causes Long Covid, and public health experts are still trying to figure out exactly how many people in the US are affected by a range of symptoms that can linger months after infection.
Long Covid can range from mild to debilitating symptoms, affecting multiple organ systems and preventing people from returning to work.
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