As the world begins to recover and heal from the global COVID-19 pandemic, there are growing concerns that long covid might now be the new health issue that plagues the world. Although the recent wave of infections from the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 , is ebbing in much of the world, there have been indications that quite a number of people display symptoms that appear weeks after the initial infection has passed – symptoms (long COVID) that can last for months or even years. These symptoms can be debilitating and cause major disruptions in health, work, and quality of life, many patients and clinicians report.
Long Covid is still poorly understood, but it is “sweeping in its volume” of effects, said Dr. Kristin Englund, founder and director of Cleveland Clinic’s post-COVID reCOVer Clinic. Speaking at a recent virtual forum hosted by U.S. News & World Report, Dr. Englund refers to long COVID as the “pandemic after the pandemic.”
Researchers have indicated that patients with long COVID can have symptoms that can involve nearly every organ system. Symptoms of long COVID include profound fatigue, shortness of breath with exertion, joint pain, chest pain, loss of smell or taste, diarrhea, headache, and other issues, such as “brain fog,” memory impairment, insomnia, anxiety, and dizziness.
Data collection is still in its infancy given the newness of the disease and researchers worldwide are still working hard to understand the implications of long COVID.
In the interim, experts are trying to understand who is most at risk for long COVID. Early data suggest women may be more affected than men. The reasons are unclear, but women may be more likely to be affected by autoimmune responses. Older individuals with comorbidities are more at risk to develop severe COVID, which also seems to be linked to long COVID. Similarly, certain racial and ethnic minority groups may be more at risk for COVID and “significantly disproportionately impacted by long COVID in terms of number of cases, hospitalisations, severe disease, etc. Several studies are underway to learn how long COVID affects the body down to the cellular level. The different variants are also being studied to see if they lead to different forms of long COVID
According to experts, being vaccinated is still the best bet for avoiding COVID and the later complication of long COVID. Patients who suspect they may have long COVID should seek professional medical advice as soon possible.