Long Covid TheMotte Survey Results : TheMotte

Last week I created a survey for r/themotte about whether covid frequently has long-term side effects in people aged 30 to 45. I did this survey because I am in this age group and I was curious about how scared of covid I should be.

Here are the results:

  • 212 recovery reports — acquaintances between the age of 30 and 45 who have gotten covid and fully recovered

  • 19 (8.2%) long covid reports — acquaintances between the age of 30 and 45 who have got the wuflu more than 3 months ago, and are still feeling significant effects.

  • 11 (4.5%) infected and not recovered, but it hasn’t been 3 months yet.

There were also 6 deaths reported.

I also ran this same exercise in a couple groupchats I participate in, with the same age bracket restrictions. The results:

  • 40 infected and fully recovered

  • 3 (7.5%) long covid cases

  • 1 infected and not recovered, but it hasn’t been 3 months yet.

Let’s talk about some potential biases:

  • People with very mild or asymptomatic cases may never have gotten tested and therefore never confirmed as cases. This would bias the reported long-covid ratio upward.

  • People with severe side effects be more likely to tell their friends about their covid experience. This would bias the reported long-covid ratio upward.

  • People reporting long covid might be hypochondriacs, or vitamin deficiencies, or iatrogenic due to excessive use of ventilators back in March, or reporting psychosymatic, or lock-down induced, or deconditioning, or coincidental depression. This would bias the long covid ratio upward.

  • The PCR tests might be way too sensitive, or were based on incorrect self-diagnosis, and many of the mild or asymptomatic cases did not actually have coronavirus. This would bias long covid ratio downward.

  • Motteizens reporting about the covid of their friends might not be aware that their friends hadn’t fully recovered. This would bias the long covid ratio downward.

The ratio of deaths reported is definitely biased to be way too high. This is because every death in your extended circle is going to be widely reported, but you won’t know about the vast majority of infections. The best estimate of the fatality rate for someone like me (healthy between 30 and 45) I think comes from the military statistics. I’ll include those below too.

A few people asked me, “Why don’t you just read the peer reviewed studies about long covid?”, I answered that here.

Below I will include the excerpts of the descriptions of the long covid cases. You all can make your own judgements about whether you think they are “real” or “psychosomatic”.

Another important dataset is that of professional athletes, because long-term effects would be public, objective, and visible. Even if they start from a high level of fitness, any drop-off in lung capacity would be noticeable. As far as I can tell hundreds of athletes have gotten it, but every single athlete has either made a full recovery or is on track for a full recovery. A handful of athletes had nasty bouts that sidelined for a while (eg. Eduardo Rodriguez on the Boston Red Sox, Jamaal Lascelles on Newcastle) but they seem to have eventually made full recoveries.

My personal conclusion: I’m still a bit torn, and I do not think the results of this survey have really changed my view. If I put on my rationalization hat I can reason that “long covid” isn’t really a threat, it’s a small percentage, even smaller percentage if we exclude the psychsomatics, and they’ll probably recover eventually. If I put on my “precautionary principle” hat, I can think, well, it would be lousy to draw the short straw and never be able to play sports again because I caught a nasty case of COVID. Might as well hold off on going to the gym for another six months until I can get vaxxed.

Excerpts about long covid

I’ve got lasting memory and attention impairments. Feels like I’ve aged at least 10 years cognitively.

On the one long hauler, I’m not convinced her symptoms aren’t psychosomatic. She caught it in July, recovered, and was still complaining about brain fog a month or two ago. But she was a really balls to the wall blue triber who was sheltering in place, never leaving the home, screaming at everyone about masks, and addicted to facebook and politics. She swears she only left the house twice since covid began, and that she must have contracted it from some teenagers who were in the same parking lot as her without masks on, some forty feet away from her, which I deem incredibly unlikely.

The only lingering effect I’ve noticed is shortness of breath, presumably due to some sort of lung damage. It’s not not that bad given my current lifestyle – it mostly just keeps me from exercising as often or as long as I used to. (I reach the point where I’m gasping for breath, more quickly than I did before I got covid-19.)

Probably got covid In October 2019 (wasn’t diagnosed, because it wasn’t really “invented” then, but I have antigens now and wasn’t sick at all and followed all guidelines since the confirmed outbreak).

I remember I was coughing and feeling sick for about 2 weeks, some fever and headaches in between, then sometimes had to cough for a few weeks. Just thought I had a stubborn cold. End November I got my yearly health check-up where they test lung capacity, etc. My lung capacity was a joke. I remember the doctor was really confused why a person my age had such low volume even though everything else seemed fine. I didn’t even notice before I did the checkup.

Still feel like I don’t have the same lung capacity I had before.

But I strongly echo concerns about difficulty in distinguishing between actual lingering effects of infection and the consequences of lifestyle changes, and would also note that the lingering symptoms are both comparatively mild at this point and seemingly continuing to improve.

For what it’s worth, I know three people on their twenties who have had long covid for more than six months, one of whom is me on about ten months now. We’re all still unwell, we were all highly athletic. One person can’t go for a walk because the cold air irritates her lungs too much. I mostly just have fatigue but occasionally I’ll get random shortness of breath or a very sharp pain in my chest when I take a deep breath.

my wife and I had it about a year ago now, very early case and both of us were sicker than we’d been before, apart from one time when I was younger and had severe viral pneumonia. I’ve now got asthma and require an inhaler to exercise heavily or during wildfire season, didn’t have that need before. Before getting it, I was biking 30 miles for my commute 3x/wk and walking using the bus about 2-4miles the other days and I certainly couldn’t do any of that now. I’ve got headaches, brain fog, and can’t concentrate. I need the house fairly dark almost all the time or I’ll get a migraine, and I’m exhausted most of the time.

My wife lost a tooth after getting it, the root just died, and her GI tract is shot. She can’t digest easily now and she had a hard time before covid but it made it worse.

…I live in a state with lots of high altitude beauty, and I was pretty afraid I’d not be able to hike peaks again. I was able to make it into the alpine this summer but had a much more difficult time than I had before, although simply being able to do it proved I was getting better, but I still feel pretty weak.

For the two younger people I know that got long-term issues the problems were primarily physical with very elevated pulse and exhaustion from even mild/moderate physical activity like going on a short walk at a leisurely pace. Other physical symptoms were joint pain, lymph node pain and head aches…..It should be noted that the guy who had symptoms for more than 3 months is now getting better, albeit slowly and it’s been over 6 months now and he’s still not completely well. Another thing to note is that both the persons are male and have no history of either physical or mental health issues. Neither were hospitalised but were still pretty ill.

I only know one friend who’s gotten COVID that I’ve had the chance to discuss it with. He got it 6 months back and his only complaint is that his sense of smell and taste has never recovered and eating and drinking is still like he’s got a bad cold.

My yoga loving wife who eats & lives like a saint was in the ICU TWICE. It took her 3mo to recover & her 5k/sprint triathlon season won’t be happening in ’21.

My former boss is a scientist, hiker, very active, least likely person to whine or be sedentary, and she had lingering symptoms, so for me that anecdote was persuasive just knowing her. But I didn’t include her since at 50 she is slightly out of this age bracket.

Although she is now back to 90-95%, I’m including her in the “over 3mo” category because she was out of commission from early April thru Octoberish. Smell came back over the summer but cardio & cognitive effects remained significant enough to that she couldn’t work (civil engineer). Still doesn’t feel able to perform musical theatre (her main passion).

However one has not fully recovered his sense of smell.

Though it’s worth noting that the guy I know who had COVID less than three months ago is right on the cusp of moving into the more than three months ago group. As a national guardsman, previous to getting COVID he was pretty fit. Now my lazy ass can easily beat him at hiking; when I went with him recently with a few other friends, he needed to turn around a quarter of the way into the hike. It’s really sad to see that happen, it was clear he was taking the loss of capability really hard psychologically too.

COVID in the U.S. Military

I mentioned above that I think the military covid data gives us our best estimates of covid fatality in young and healthy people. Here are my calculations:

  • 126,437 military cases source

  • 15 deaths source

  • I found articles on 13 of the 15 deaths. Four deceased were in their 30s, every one else was over 40.

  • 33% of the active duty military is over thirty, 8% is over 40 source

  • Rough guestimate then, that 1/3rd of the military COVID cases were over 30. This assumption could an over-estimate to the extent that the young are less likely to be working from home or otherwise social distancing and therefore more likely to be infected. This is an underestimate to the extent that the age distribution of reserves is significantly older than the age distribution of active duty.

  • CFR is zero for people under 30

  • CFR for is 0.03% — or 1 in 3,000 for all military over the age of 30

  • CFR is 0.01% (or 1 in 10,000) for 30-40 year olds.

  • CFR is 0.1% for over 40 year olds in the military

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