The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health gave a briefing on Thursday regarding new studies conducted on the long-term effects of COVID-19.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that while there’s still no clear definition of what’s being called “Long COVID,” the term is usually used when referring to “symptoms that continue for a month or longer after initial illness.”
“It’s still not clear how frequently Long COVID occurs but it isn’t rare,” said Ferrer. “Estimates vary considerably from about 5% to close to 40%, depending on the population studied.”
Ferrer said those who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 tend to have a higher risk of experiencing Long COVID. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in L.A. County have increased slightly since last week, averaging at 78 per day.
Reported symptoms of Long COVID are varied, but the Health Department said there are some commonalities such as fatigue, trouble breathing, brain fog and loss of taste or smell.
Ferrer cited several studies that have looked into the long-term effects of COVID-19, one of which found that, a year after initial symptoms, 42% had a higher risk of developing neurological disorders.
One study conducted by Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, chief of research and education service at Veterans Affairs in St. Louis, found that at six months after initial symptoms, veterans had double the risk of dying, three times higher risk of hospitalization, and two and a half times higher risk of developing heart or lung disease.
“While we continue to better understand the impact of COVID on our long-term health, it is prudent to take sensible steps to avoid infections and particularly reinfections,” said Ferrer.
Ferrer said vaccination against COVID-19 is one of the prevailing preventative measures against Long COVID, citing a new study that systematically reviewed other studies – in which its authors found that people who had two doses of the original COVID-19 vaccine had a 75% lower chance of developing Long COVID, while those with three doses had an approximately 84% lower chance.
New bivalent vaccines are now available for anyone 12 and older who received at least their “primary COVID-19 vaccine series” at least two months ago. Ages 12-17 are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine only, while those 18 and older can have either Pfizer or Moderna.
The bivalent vaccines offer protection against the original strain of COVID-19, the omicron variant and the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.