MDH COVID-19 briefing: Health officials discuss long-term health impact of COVID-19

During the Minnesota Department of Health’s regular COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, health officials discussed the long-term impacts COVID-19 can have on people’s health.

“We are learning more and more that in some situations COVID-19 is not just an acute illness,” Dr. Ruth Lynfield, with MDH, said.

Lynfield said some patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 or suffered a mild infection have developed symptoms that can last for weeks or months.

Health experts are working to learn what long-lasting symptoms could be and who is likely to get them.

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“Certainly there is a high risk among those who had more severe disease, but in fact, we’re hearing more and more that people who have a mild illness do develop ongoing symptoms,” Lynfield said. “And sometimes they develop new symptoms.”

Lynfield said those symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Change in mood
  • Memory difficulty
  • Development of anxiety
  • Fast beating or pounding of heart
  • Muscle pain

Along with long-lasting symptoms, Lynfield also spoke about multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, which can be a complication from COVID-19.

Lynfield said there has been a total of 43 cases reported to MDH out of more than 59,000 cases of COVID-19 in children in Minnesota.

According to MDH data, all of the children in the state who developed MIS-C were hospitalized, with more than half needing intensive care.

Data also shows there is a large inequity in the children who developed MIS-C, with 67% of the cases being in black or Hispanic children.

“The impact of this infection continues on,” Lynfield said, “and it can continue on and cause complications even in people who did not have a very severe acute course. And this is something we are very concerned about.”

Because of the complications people can face after COVID-19, Lynfield asked Minnesotans to do their best to limit the spread.

The health officials at the briefing also spoke about the recent reports of younger people dying of complications from COVID-19. In data released by MDH Thursday, it was revealed two people in their 20s had died from COVID-19.

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said deaths among younger people are statistically unusual. However, she added, “The full profile of COVID-19 and who it affects and how severely is quite a bit broader than what the narrative was at the beginning of the pandemic.”

Lynfield did say MDH has learned that generally younger people who die from COVID-19 complications suffered from a variety of health conditions, including obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

“But we need to remember these conditions are very common in our community, so it truly is of great concern we’re starting to see deaths … in younger individuals,” Lynfield said.