Nearly half of 363,000 US veterans who tested positive for COVID-19 still had symptoms up to 6 months later, and the risk factors for this condition were Black race, older age, diabetes, and severe infection, concludes a study published yesterday in the Annals of Epidemiology.
Researchers from Emory University and the Atlanta Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center retrospectively determined the rates of and risk factors for long COVID (also called post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 [PASC]) among 363,825 veterans who tested positive for COVID-19 from February 2020 to September 2022. Participants were predominantly White men younger than 65 years living in a city. Of all participants, 31% were unvaccinated, 23% had received two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and 40% had received a booster.
Potential racial disparities
A total of 45% of veterans had long-COVID symptoms 1 to 6 months after infection. Risk factors for long COVID were Black versus White race (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.14), ages 50 to 64 versus 50 or younger (aOR, 1.80), diabetes (aOR, 8.46), and severe infection (aOR, 1.42).
Results demonstrate potential health inequities for vulnerable individuals, as well as increased risk for individuals with pre-existing comorbidities.
"Results demonstrate potential health inequities for vulnerable individuals, as well as increased risk for individuals with pre-existing comorbidities," the study authors wrote. "The prevalence of PASC provides estimates for future health care utilization. The risk factors identified can aid public health interventions to reduce the burden of PASC."