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By Michael Hughes, Director of Epidemiology

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), one of the most severe consequences of COVID-19, is often fatal and may develop in COVID-19 patients already in a critically ill state.

To examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on ARDS risk, we analysed the number of patients in the United States making medical claims for ARDS between two time periods: April to May 2019 (before the Sars-CoV2 virus had been detected), and April to May 2020 (during the peak of mortality due to COVID-19.

The figures are startling, but as expected: between the two time periods, the number of people claiming for ARDS more than doubled - from 18,000 in 2019 to 37,000 in 2020. The United States has been hit badly with COVID-19-associated mortality, and so this increase may not be seen to the same extent in other countries. But if ARDS tracks COVID-19 mortality, we could see hundreds of thousands more cases of COVID-19-associated ARDS before the pandemic is over.