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New study finds high number of Long COVID cases in Alabama


A new study from Help Advisor shows that Alabama has the third highest number of Long COVID reports in the country. The World Health Organization defines Long COVID as “the continuation or development of new symptoms three months after the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection, with these symptoms lasting for at least two months with no other explanation.”

According to the report, nearly 32% of Alabamians who tested positive for COVID-19 experience have also Long COVID symptoms. Christian Worstell, the author of the report, said finding the cause of Long COVID is difficult.

“It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes Long COVID. Even the experts aren't entirely sure,” he explained. “It is believed that people who have experienced a more severe case of COVID-19 might develop Long COVID symptoms. Those who had an underlying condition, some sort of respiratory condition that was there prior to the infection, might manifest itself into Long COVID symptoms,” Worstell continued. “Those who did not receive a COVID-19 vaccine might be more vulnerable to Long COVID. So, [it’s] difficult to really put your hand on what might it be.”

The report from Help Advisor also found that nearly 34% of those Alabama residents affected by Long COVID report that the symptoms have reduced their ability to carry out daily activities. Worstell said the symptoms can come and go for those affected.

“One of the interesting things is that for a lot of these Long COVID sufferers, sometimes the symptoms will disappear for maybe a week or two at a time, but then they come right back. It seems like the symptoms kind of go dormant and then reappear. So, it may not be necessarily three consecutive months of symptoms. It might be kind of off and on,” Worstell said.

He also said Long COVID can make daily life unpredictable because of the irregularity of when the symptoms begin and end.

“If your symptoms disappear for a week, and you think that you're on the mend, and you're back to normal, and then the next week you get hit with it again… [it] certainly adds a lot of unpredictability into kind of your day-to-day life,” Worstell said.

The report also found that 40% of Alabama residents aged 40-54 who previously had COVID experienced long COVID. The highest percentage of any age group, including those 65 and older.

“40 to 54 age group is one that's very active. Those are people [who] are in the workforce [and] are the ones that often have kids in the household [and] are the ones that are out and about in the community a lot more,” Worstell said. “Those that are 65 and older, they might be retired. They no longer have kids in the house. They're maybe not getting as exposed as someone in a little bit younger demographic. So, I think maybe just the amount of person-to-person close contact [the] 40 to 54 age group have and their day-to-day life is probably contributing to the spread of COVID, and therefore, the long symptoms of it,” he continued.

According to the study, women seem to be more affected by long COVID. 35% of female respondents from Alabama who were previously infected with COVID have experienced symptoms of COVID that persisted for three months or longer. That’s in comparison to 26% of men. Worstell said researchers are unsure what factors are contributing to COVID affecting women more than me.

Worstell said the high rates of people experiencing Long COVID is an indication to him that the pandemic is not over.

“You're talking about something that takes a while to appear and manifest itself and then only then can you begin studying it and unpacking it and auditing that,” he said. “So, I still hear the term ‘post pandemic,’ or you hear people say, ‘We're done with COVID.’ I don't know that we are necessarily,” Worstell continued. “Obviously, we're no longer in the thick of it anymore, but there's still a lot of people [who] are still suffering from this sort of stuff,” he said.

To read the full Help Advisor report on the findings for Alabama and the U.S., click here.

Andrea Tinker is a student intern at Alabama Public Radio. She is majoring in News Media with a minor in African American Studies at The University of Alabama. In her free time, Andrea loves to listen to all types of music, spending time with family, and reading about anything pop culture related.

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