Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of millions of people around the world have been infected. Although most recover quickly, some do not. These patients experience persistent symptoms, a condition now called Long COVID. Estimates range, but it appears that somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of COVID-19 patients will experience symptoms for an extended period of time. One study found half of patients had at least one symptom six months later. Given these estimates, that would mean Long COVID could be impacting between 10 million to 30 million Americans, at a minimum.

Recently defined by the World Health Organization, the condition can affect people’s ability to work and carry on with life’s activities, and has a significant impact on communities, economies and society as a whole. 

This website is a one-stop resource for patients, businesses, healthcare providers, insurers, scientists and others navigating the emerging evidence and complex impact of Long COVID. It is brought to you by the Brown University School of Public Health’s Long COVID Initiative, a coalition of researchers, clinicians and experts in policy as well as strategic communications. We are committed to closing knowledge gaps and translating the latest Long COVID evidence into accessible guidance for all.

Given the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on communities of color, it is essential that our initiative apply an equity lens throughout everything we do. To this end, we will specifically call out where data and information on minorities are missing and collaborate to generate and synthesize such evidence on how Long COVID affects all populations.

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For Employers

How Long COVID is
impacting the work force

For Patients

Information for Long COVID
patients, caregivers, and advocates

For Insurers

The implications for
healthcare utilization
and costs

For Healthcare Providers

Research & data to help
improve quality of patient
care

What we know

What is Long COVID ?

Long COVID refers to the signs and symptoms that continue or develop after a person’s initial COVID-19 infection. As many as 30 to 50% of people who had COVID-19 report experiencing at least one symptom that lasts weeks or often even months after the initial infection. For people with more severe COVID-19 infections, up to 80% may experience new or ongoing symptoms. This is often referred to as Long COVID. Other names include “long-haul COVID”, “post-acute COVID-19 syndrome” and “persistent COVID symptoms.”

What are the symptoms?

Long COVID can cause a wide range of symptoms, lasting for different lengths of time and varying in severity. For some, symptoms may be mild while others might become increasingly incapacitated. Symptoms may persist after initial infection, return after a period without symptoms, or emerge following an initial infection without symptoms.

Common symptoms of Long COVID are:

  • Respiratory symptoms: fatigue, difficulty breathing, cough, chest pain, congestion, shortness of breath
  • Olfactory dysfunction: loss of taste, loss of smell
  • Gastrointestinal issues: diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting
  • Cognitive impairment: headaches, dizziness, loss of memory, brain fog
  • Mental health issues: anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, eating disorders
  • Systemic symptoms: body aches, muscle pain, weakness
  • Other symptoms: loss of hearing, skin rashes, hair loss, acute kidney injury, impaired mobility, heart palpitations

Who is at risk?

Anyone infected with COVID-19 is at risk of developing Long COVID, including children, as well as individuals who had mild or even asymptomatic infections. Researchers are continuing to study if there are certain factors or underlying conditions that can increase an individual’s risk of experiencing Long COVID symptoms. However, new research indicates that four factors may increase the chances of Long COVID: high levels of viral RNA early during an infection, the presence of certain autoantibodies, the reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus and having Type 2 diabetes.

How is it treated?

The CDC recommends that people visit their primary care doctor if they experience new or ongoing symptoms four or more weeks after their COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients and their doctors may develop a plan to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Additionally, doctors may encourage patients to seek treatment at a rehabilitation center or post-COVID care clinic. Rehabilitation has been useful among elderly patients with COVID-19 for improving respiratory function, quality of life, and anxiety.

How is it prevented?

Preventing COVID-19 infection is the best way to prevent Long COVID. Some steps we can take include:

  • Vaccination, including booster shots
  • Social distancing and avoiding large crowds
  • Wearing a well-fitted mask over your nose and mouth
  • Washing your hands frequently with soap and water

How is society impacted?

Among people with severe COVID-19, as many as 50-70% report impaired quality of life three to six months after hospitalization. Other reports suggest that some people with Long COVID have not been able to return to work or may have to reduce their work hours or modify their duties due to persistent health issues.  Additionally, financial hardships due to the initial COVID-19 infection may be compounded by new costs and lost income due to Long COVID.

Research

Long COVID is so new, very little is known about its broader impact on people, communities, workplaces, healthcare, and society as a whole. Our initiative is applying a diverse set of research tools to address these knowledge gaps: 

Roundtables

We are holding a series of roundtable discussions with key groups affected by Long COVID, such as patients, employers and employees, or clinicians. The goal is to develop consensus on best practices and recommendations for government, private sector, and health systems on how to effectively manage Long COVID. 

National patient and employer surveys

Targeted surveys are being deployed to identify the social, financial, and equity impact of Long COVID. The surveys will also inform our mathematical modeling, which will estimate the population-level economic impacts of Long COVID.

Evidence synthesis

New studies on the clinical features and other impacts of Long COVID are published on a daily basis. We periodically review this emerging literature, and share key findings on our research page. 

Learning from Claims Data

To understand the burden of Long COVID on hospitals and healthcare costs, we will be diving into routinely collected health data such as administrative claims and electronic medical records. Analysis of these data will provide pragmatic evaluations of health outcomes, healthcare utilization, and costs related to Long COVID in large samples that represent the US population. 

Who we are

Francesca Beaudoin, MD, MS, PhD
Interim Chair of the Department of Epidemiology; Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Health Services, Policy and Practice, Brown University School of Public Health

Laura Chambers, MPH, PhD
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Epidemiology;
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Brown University School of Public Health

Megan Ranney, MD, MPH
Academic Dean; Director of Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health; Brown University School of Public Health

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For inquiries related to the Long COVID Initiative, please contact long_covid_initiative@brown.edu