The CDC is beginning to look at death certificates that indicate more than 100 people who died had long Covid.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is analyzing more than 100 deaths that could be attributed to long Covid by looking at death certificates from across the country over the last two years, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The National Center for Health Statistics, a division within the CDC, collects death certificates from states after they have been completed by a coroner, medical examiner or doctor. NCHS is now reviewing a batch of those files from 2020 and 2021.
The review at the CDC, the details of which POLITICO obtained, is the first of its kind and indicates that long Covid and the health complications associated with it could lead to death. NCHS is set to publish preliminary data from its analysis in the coming days.
It’s unclear whether the people who died had underlying health issues, whether long Covid was the cause of their deaths or whether it was a contributing factor.
The new data comes as state and federal health officials work to understand the significance and severity of long Covid, which may affect as many as 30 percent of people who contract the virus, according to studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Two years into the pandemic, relatively little is known about long Covid’s prevalence, how to diagnose it or the best practices for treatment.
“The overall risk factors for mortality with long COVID are going to be important and evolving,” said Mady Hornig, a physician-scientist at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health who is researching long Covid. The CDC is still collecting and revising data, but NCHS has so far identified 60 death certificates that list long Covid or similar terminology — for example, “post-Covid” — in 2021 and another 60 during the first five months of 2022.
A spokesperson for the CDC said the agency is “working on identifying any deaths attributed to … long Covid-19” and plans to publish the numbers “soon.”
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