Long COVID Symptoms: Months After Infection

Long COVID can persist for at least a year after the acute illness has passed, or appear months later, according to the most comprehensive look yet at how symptoms play out over a year.

The multicenter study, a collaboration between UC San Francisco, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and seven other sites, expands knowledge of post-COVID-19 conditions, describing trends in more detail than previous research and highlighting significant impacts the epidemic has had on the U.S. health care system.

The study appears in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), a publication of the CDC.

For about 16% of the COVID-positive people in the study, symptoms lasted for at least a year; but for others, they came and went. 

The study assessed symptoms every three months, enabling researchers to differentiate between symptoms that improve and those that emerge months after the initial infection.

Long COVID involves a range of symptoms that persist or develop about a month after initial infection. These symptoms are associated with significant morbidity or reduced quality of life.

The study involved 1,741 participants — two-thirds of them female — who sought COVID testing at eight major health care systems across the country. Three-quarters tested positive for COVID, but those who tested negative may also have had an infection of some type, since they were experiencing symptoms. These included fatigue, runny nose, headache, sore throat, shortness of breath, chest pain, diarrhea, forgetfulness and difficulty thinking or concentrating.

COVID positive participants were more likely to have symptoms in each of the symptom categories at baseline, but by the end of the year, there was no difference between those who were COVID positive and negative.


Juan Carlos C. Montoy, James Ford, Huihui Yu, et al. Prevalence of Symptoms ≤12 Months After Acute Illness, by COVID-19 Testing Status Among Adults — United States, December 2020–March 2023. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2023; 72 (32): 859 DOI: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7232a2

University of California – San Francisco. (2023, August 10). Long COVID symptoms can emerge months after infection. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 10, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/08/230810141013.htm
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