Dr. Fauci says new data suggests ‘long’ Covid symptoms can last up to 9 months

Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House press briefing, conducted by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 21, 2021 in Washington, DC.

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New data suggests that people with Covid-19 can continue to suffer from symptoms for up to nine months after the initial infection, White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

Researchers at the University of Washington recently found that 30% of patients reported symptoms for as long as nine months, Fauci told reporters during a White House news briefing on Covid-19. People reported fatigue, shortness of breath, sleep disorders and other symptoms that lasted for months, he said.

Symptoms of “long Covid,” which researchers are now calling Post-Acute Sequelae of Covid-19, or PASC, can develop “well after” infection, and severity can range from mild to “incapacitating,” said Fauci, also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“The magnitude of the problem is not fully known,” he said, adding PASC was also reported in people who did not require hospitalization and people who had symptoms that were not part of their initial infection.

The update comes as global medical experts are working to better diagnose and treat people with persistent Covid-19 symptoms.

So far, there has been a limited number of studies that discern what the most common long-Covid symptoms are or how long they might last. Most of the focus has been on people with a severe or fatal illness, not those who have recovered but still report lingering side effects, sometimes referred to as “long haulers.”

The National Institutes of Health has launched an initiative to study long Covid and to identify the causes and potential treatments for individuals, Fauci said. “What makes some people vulnerable while others recover quickly and have no sequelae?” he asked.

– CNBC’s Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.