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Recurrent Illness and the Burden of COVID-19
31, Dec 2020

Recurrent Illness and the Burden of COVID-19

Recurring symptoms lasting several months may require ongoing treatment in some patients who have experienced COVID-19 infection. Terms referring to this condition include “long-haul COVID-19” or COVID-19 readmissions.




The CDC Report: For the period March-August 2020, the CDC’s MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2020;69:1695–1699 reviewed the progress of 126,137 unique COVID-19 infection patients admitted to US hospitals between March-July 2020. Fifteen percent of these patients died. 

Among 106,543 survivors, 

  • 9% were readmitted to the same hospital within 2 months, and 1.6% were readmitted more than once, for recurrent illness. 
  • Readmitted patients tended to be >65 years old, with chronic conditions,  with previous hospitalizations in the 3 months prior to the COVID-19 infection, and had been discharged to a skilled nursing facility, or with home healthcare.  


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VA Hospitals confirm these COVID-19 readmissions: 2179 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in 132 VA hospitals were followed for progress. 

  • Among survivors who were discharged, a fifth were readmitted within 60 days. These patients tended to be older than those not requiring readmission. 
  • Reasons for readmission included COVID-19 in 30%, sepsis in 8%, pneumonia in 3%, and heart failure in 3%. 
  • COVID-19 survivors had higher readmission rates within the first 10 days after the first admission than matched survivors of pneumonia and heart failure without COVID-19.   




The toll of COVID-19 infection and COVID-19 readmissions: Among 1648 COVID-19 patients admitted to 38 hospitals in Michigan with COVID-19 infection 75% survived and were discharged. 

  • In the 60 days after discharge, an additional 7% died, and 15% had to be readmitted. 


Among survivors interviewed 60 or more days after discharge:

  • A third reported cardiopulmonary symptoms 
  • 13% reported a persistent loss of taste or smell
  • 40% of previously employed individuals could not return to work because of persistent health issues or loss of employment
  • 26% of those who returned to work could not do so full time.


Emotional and financial impact among these 60-day survivors 

  • Nearly half reported being emotionally affected, and 6% sought mental health care
  • 37% reported a mild financial impact 
  • 10% reported use of most or all savings 
  • 7% reported having to ration food, heat, housing, or medications due to cost.




If you are experiencing some of these symptoms after COVID-19 infection, please contact your primary care physician to get help:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Heart trouble 
  • Fever and Infection 
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Persistent weakness and inability to perform daily tasks
  • Neurological symptoms such as unclear thinking or poor awareness



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