STUDY: Multiple Covid infections increase likelihood of long-haul health issues

Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 6:24 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - People infected with COVID-19 more than once face a heightened risk for “long-haul” health problems, according to new U.S. data.

Researchers looked at 73,000 patients in the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs database. Those infected with the coronavirus two or more times faced an increased risk for problems lasting beyond 30 days of infection.

Respiratory issues were the most common ailments amongst long-haulers, ranging from not getting enough deep breaths to respiratory failure.

Patients also reported higher rates of nervous system problems, like neurocognitive disorders and headaches.

Repeat infections put increased stress on cardiovascular systems too, including hypertension, irregular heartbeat, circulatory problems, chest pain, coronary atherosclerosis, and heart failure.

The gastrointestinal system might also be impacted, ranging from esophageal disorders to difficulty swallowing and stomach pain.

Patients also reported higher rates of metabolic disorders like obesity, diabetes, and cholesterol problems.

Repeat infections also take a toll on mental health. Data found sleep disorders, anxiety, and stress-related disorders at heightened levels amongst the COVID-19 patients.

Long-haulers reported an overarching hit to their general health, with higher rates of fatigue, muscle and skin disorders, arthritis, infections, musculoskeletal pain, and anemia.

About 8 to 10 percent of people are at risk for developing long-term effects.

Dr. Cecil Bennett with Newnan Family Medicine called the findings “concerning.”

“The more times we get exposed to second-hand smoke, the greater risk we get to developing lung cancer,” explained Dr. Bennett. “In this case, the more times we are exposed to Covid, the greater chance we get diagnosed with long-haul Covid.”

The new findings come amid a Covid spike across the country. Even people who are vaccinated and have had boosters are at risk for infection from the new Omicron subvariant.

Dr. Bennett said immunocompromised people face the most risk.

“Their immune systems are already not functioning at 100 percent capacity. That would be the primary population we’re concerned about,” he said.

Despite his concerns, Dr. Bennett encouraged people to perform everyday tasks while exercising caution.

“We still have to live our lives in this period of Covid. No doubt we are in a far better place than we were a few years ago,” said Dr. Bennett. “If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you’re immunocompromised, get vaccinated and wear a mask.”