Long COVID in young adults on a university campus

Susan Jacob | 2023

Advisor: Helen Y. Chu

Research Area(s): COVID-19

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To determine the prevalence of long COVID in young adults in a university setting and to describe risk factors for long COVID in this population Methods: This is a prospective cohort study conducted between December 2021 and February 2023 among research study participants in the Husky Coronavirus Testing (HCT) program at the University of Washington (UW). Research study participants who tested positive or inconclusive for SARS-CoV-2 by PCR test or those who reported testing positive by rapid antigen test were invited to participate in a long COVID survey a minimum of 28 days after their test date to collect data regarding current symptom(s), type of clinical care received and impact on daily activities. The primary outcome was presence of long COVID illness. Logistic regression was used to assess for association between risk factors and presence of long COVID. Results: Overall we received 1764 responses from 1752 unique participants, with 55.0% students and 44.3% staff or faculty. Participants with long COVID were older (median age: 34 years, IQR: 23-48) compared to those without long COVID (median age:27 years, IQR: 21-45). About 15.8% (279/1764) of participants in the survey reported experiencing at least one symptom associated with long COVID. Among participants with long COVID (n=279), the most reported symptoms of long COVID were tiredness (9.9%), followed by brain fog (7.3%), cough (5.6%), anxiety (3.8%) and trouble sleeping (3.6%). After adjusting for presence of sore throat, runny nose, headache and any symptoms at the time of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, we found that female sex compared to males (adjusted OR (aOR): 1.71; 95% CI: 1.14, 2.60; p-value: 0.011), increase in age by one year (aOR:1.02; 95% CI: 1.00,1.03; p-value: 0.015), cough (aOR: 1.71; 95% CI: 1.09, 2.75; p-value: 0.023) and tiredness (aOR: 2.03; 95% CI:1.32, 3.17; p-value: 0.001) were associated with significantly higher odds of long COVID. Most participants (65.9%) reported interruption of routine activities due to ongoing symptoms of long COVID. Activities affected included exercise (50.2%), work (29.0%), socializing (26.2%) and school (20.4%). After the end of quarantine period, the average number of days of work or school days missed per person was 3.9 days. Conclusion: We found a substantial burden of long COVID in a university population, with impact on school and work absenteeism. Knowledge of the risk factors and prevalence of long COVID can help university leadership plan strategies to provide individualized support for students and staff affected by long COVID.