Young Adults With Covid-19 Still Have Symptoms Weeks Later

August 31, 2020

Young people shouldn’t expect to bounce back after a COVID-19 infection – A new study finds that about a quarter of young adults still haven’t returned to their normal healthy weeks after an infection, even if they don’t have a medical condition and aren’t hospitalized.

The findings suggest that recovery from COVID-19 “can be prolonged, even in the absence of a chronic medical condition that may result in prolonged absences from work, school or other activities,” according to the report, released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While many studies have focused on hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the researchers wanted to measure the recovery of less ill patients who were not hospitalized – called “outpatients.” So they analyzed information from nearly 300 U.S. adults 18 and older in 13 states who were tested for COVID-19 in a clinic or emergency room but were not hospitalized at the time of testing. Because the researchers wanted to see recovery, they included only those who tested positive and reported experiencing at least one COVID-19 symptom at the time of their test. The participants were followed up two to three weeks after their test date to see how they were doing.

Overall, about two-thirds of all adults in the study reported returning to their usual health within about a week of their test date, but 35 percent said they had not returned to their usual health at the time they were interviewed, which was 14 to 21 days after their test date.

Among young adults (those aged 18 to 34), a quarter were still recovering after two to three weeks; that number rose to one-third for those between 35 and 49, and nearly one-half for those aged 50 and older.

Even young adults who are healthy and have no underlying medical conditions. About one in five still have residual symptoms after two to three weeks

Overall, among those who didn’t recover, the symptoms that were least likely to resolve were cough and fatigue.

According to the report, the study shows that COVID-19 is not “just another flu” – data from previous years found that more than 90 percent of flu clinic patients recovered within two weeks of testing positive.

“Public health messaging should target populations who may not perceive COVID-19 disease as serious or long-standing, including young people and those without chronic underlying disease,” the report says.

The authors conclude that measures including social distancing, frequent hand washing and the use of face masks in public should be “strongly encouraged” to slow the spread of COVID-19.