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1 in 9 Canadian adults have experienced long-term COVID symptoms, StatsCan says

About one in nine Canadian adults have experienced long-term symptoms from COVID-19 infection, according to a Statistics Canada report issued Friday.

That amounts to 3.5 million Canadians, it said.

Almost 80 per cent of those people with long-term symptoms have them for six months or more, the report said. In addition, more than half of those who ever had long-term symptoms still had them as of June 2023.

“Among Canadians who reported ever experiencing long-term symptoms, those who continue to experience these symptoms (58.2 per cent) outnumber those who have reported them resolved (41.8 per cent),” the report said.

Long COVID, also known as post COVID-19 condition, is defined by the World Health Organization as symptoms that persist for three months or longer after infection and can’t be explained by anything else.

The Statistics Canada findings aren’t surprising, said Manali Mukherjee, an assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton who specializes in respiratory diseases and immunology in an interview on Friday.

WATCH | Research suggests most long COVID symptoms clear after a year: 

Most long COVID symptoms clear up within a year, new research suggests

New research out of Israel suggests most symptoms of long COVID clear up within a year, but some — like weakness and trouble breathing — are more likely to persist.

“There is a subset of patients who have long COVID symptoms affecting their quality of life, their productivity on a daily level,” said Mukherjee, who is a long COVID researcher and also spent about 18 months recovering from her own symptoms.

The most common long COVID symptoms are brain fog, fatigue and shortness of breath, she said.

Two-thirds of Canadian adults who have tried to get health-care services for their long-term symptoms say they haven’t received enough treatment or support, the Statistics Canada report said.

Research shows that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 reduces the risk of getting long COVID, as well as the severity of symptoms, Mukherjee said.

High levels of prior infection

The Statistics Canada report also noted nearly one in five Canadian adults have had more than one known or suspected COVID-19 infection.

The percentage of Canadian adults who ever tested positive for or suspected a COVID-19 infection increased from roughly 39 per cent in the summer of 2022 to 64 per cent by June 2023.

As of that time, 45 per cent of Canadians had experienced one infection, 14 per cent had experienced two and a little more than five per cent had experienced three or more. Statistics Canada said those numbers are likely an underestimate.

WATCH | Winnipeg woman shares her experience with Long COVID: 

Winnipeg woman describes experience with long COVID

Katie Kitchen first tested positive for COVID-19 in December 2020. More than two years later, she still lives with symptoms of long COVID.

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