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Obesity linked to long COVID -- West Virginia leads the U.S. in both

Dominion Post - 4/5/2024

Apr. 5—MORGANTOWN — In West Virginia, 10.6 % of the respondents questioned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported suffering symptoms of long COVID, also known as post-COVID.

That leads the country.

The national average was 6.9 %.

In West Virginia, 41 % of adults are considered obese.

That, too, is tops in the nation.

During the most-recent meeting of the Monongalia CountyBoard of Health, Monongalia County Health Officer Dr. Lee Smith said the CDC is sure these two data points are linked.

"Now they're saying it's related to obesity, " Smith said of long COVID. "And so, if you are obese and you get COVID, you have about a 11 % chance of getting long-COVID."

The term long-COVID has come to encompass a wide range of health problems that emerge, persist or recur following acute illness. The most-common complaints are fatigue, respiratory symptoms and neurological symptoms, often described as "brain fog."

The numbers cited above were collected in 2022 as part of the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which included a population-based cross-sectional survey.

The survey was based on random digit dialing. Respondents were asked to self-report age, sex, previous COVID diagnosis and experiences with long-COVID symptoms.

Across the board, the data seems to support a link between obesity rates and occurrence of long-COVID.

Of the 15 states with the highest percentage of obese adults per the CDC, 10 were above the national average of 6.9 % of respondents self-reporting long-COVID symptoms. The seven most-obese states (West Virginia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Ohio) all topped that mark. Two more—Arkansas (37.4 % obesity rate ; 6.8 % long-COVID and Indiana (37.7 % obesity rate ; 6.5 % long COVID)—came in just below the average.

Montana may be the most-striking outlier, with 9.8 % of respondents reporting long-COVID symptoms despite an obesity rate well down the list, at 30.5 %. Montana tied Alabama, the nation's sixth-most-obese state at 38.3 %, for second-highest reported incidence of long-COVID.

Smith said the link between obesity and the prevalence of long-COVID makes perfect sense.

"Obesity is also going to be increased risk of hospitalization, increased risk of being on a ventilator or death or all the other problems we've seen, " he said, adding, "It comes as no surprise then that if you have a lot of people who are overweight, that kind of equates to an unhealthy lifestyle, which equates to other symptomatology."

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