Monday, Sept. 28, 2020
This is a “stop the presses” moment for me. Last night I noticed some stories in the headlines, and they had nothing to do with the election. The long-term effects of COVID-19, which have been documented for months, are now widespread in the news. “Long haulers” are being reported worldwide. I don’t think they’ll have trouble getting people to believe them any more.
Back on August 22 in “Pandemic Day 164: Long-haulers,” https://historysedge.wordpress.com/2020/08/22/pandemic-day-164-long-haulers/ I talked about new studies, new clinics, and “gaslighting,” a denial of personal experiences which gained credence as long-term effects continued to be ignored in the mainstream media. So what has changed?
First, we now have 10 months of history with COVID-19. Time to observe that many people who had the disease and were “cured” are suffering from damage to their heart, lungs, and neurological system. Experiencing “brain fog” and extreme weariness. Injured by blood clots throughout the body. And not “just” by people who were hospitalized.
In addition, more experience and better treatments now enable us to look beyond the false dichotomy of “you recover or you die” and forward to the issue of what it does to your body. Still it’s only been 10 months. We don’t know how long the long term lasts yet.
So, what are these headlines that made such an impression on me?
- Sweden reports a long-term incidence of 10%. According to Swedish immunologist Söderberg-Nauclér: “We know at least 10% of people are getting ill long-term, and five to six months after being infected, they still can’t get out of bed. They can’t function at work, they don’t function in school.”
- India is struggling with a large number of post-COVID complications. Day-workers who recover from COVID find they can’t go back to work. A new clinic at Delhi government’s Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital because when the hospital contacted patients to follow up, they found many were still suffering from recurring symptoms. “So far, most of these patients are complaining about breathlessness, mild exertion, weakness, and fatigue,” according to Dr Ajeet Jain, an officer at the clinic. They are accumulating data, but have not reported a percentage yet.
- In the UK, BBC reported in May that, dangerous blood clots occur in up to 30 % of “patients who are seriously ill.” These include micro clots in the lungs and deep-vein thrombosis in the legs.
- A recent article in USA Today describes a 45-year old woman whose post-COVID symptoms have included severe fatigue, nausea, heart problems, and glaucoma. This article, like many others, cites the CDC report in the MMWR that found 35% of adults, not hospitalized, did not feel well weeks after they had “recovered” from COVID. (See below).
One of the most detailed studies I’ve found was done by Dr. Natalie Lambert at the Indiana School of Medicine (see below). This survey found that the symptoms reported by COVID-19 long-haulers included far more symptoms than listed by the CDC and affected more areas than the lungs and heart, such as the kidneys, back, brain, and GI tract. Neurological symptoms included anxiety, confusion, and memory problems. 26.5% of symptoms reported were “painful.”
Teodor Postolache, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in College Park estimates that 30-50 % of COVID-19 patients may suffer long-term neurological problems from headaches and loss of smell to mood disorders and cognitive issues.
There have been earlier reports on long-term COVID from China, Europe, and elsewhere. But the increasing number of articles gives rise to more questions: Will these long-term symptoms fade away in time or are they signs of a chronic health issue that may affect your ability to enjoy life, earn a living or live a normal life span? Will COVID be considered a “pre-existing condition”? Many “long haulers” are relatively young adults who were not seriously ill, not hospitalized. What about long-term health issues in children?
Clearly more study is needed and more time to track long-term symptoms. Perhaps treatment carried out early on can mitigate or prevent chronic debilitating health problems. As I often tell the people in my life, don’t get COVID. And above all, don’t get it NOW. Six months will bring us so much more knowledge. And, with that, more tools for prevention and treatment.
Perhaps this fall our main defense is patience.
Today’s Notable Headlines
“Some countries are eying Sweden’s ‘light-touch’ Covid response. It’s a gamble that could backfire,” CNN, Sept. 28, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/28/europe/sweden-uk-coronavirus-immunity-analysis-gbr-intl/index.html
“Why India should worry about post-Covid-19 care,” BBC, Sept. 27, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-54261125
“COVID long haulers: I caught coronavirus in March. I still haven’t fully recovered,” USA Today, Sept. 28, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2020/09/28/long-covid-post-coronavirus-syndrome-recovery-symptoms-column/3552751001/
“Fatigue, breathlessness: New clinic in Delhi to address issues after Covid recovery,” The Indian Express, Aug. 23, 2020, https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/fatigue-breathlessness-new-clinic-to-address-issues-after-covid-recovery-in-delhi-6566007/
“Coronavirus: A third of hospital patients develop dangerous blood clots,” BBC, 16 May, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-52662065#:~:text=Coronavirus%3A%20A%20third%20of%20hospital%20patients%20develop%20dangerous%20blood%20clots,-By%20Richard%20Galpin&text=Up%20to%2030%25%20of%20patients,the%20number%20of%20people%20dying.
Other citations and references:
“Symptom Duration and Risk Factors for Delayed Return to Usual Health Among Outpatients with COVID-19 in a Multistate Health Care Systems Network — United States, March–June 2020,” MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report), CDC, July 31, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6930e1.htm
“COVID-19 “Long Hauler” Symptoms Survey Report,” Dr. Natalie Lambert and the Survivor Corps, University of Indiana School of Medicine. July 25, 2020. https://dig.abclocal.go.com/wls/documents/2020/072720-wls-covid-symptom-study-doc.pdf
“1 in 3 patients may have neurological issues after COVID-19, experts say,” Becker’s Hospital Review, Aug/ 12. 2020. Refers to Teodor Postolache, MD) (https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/patient-safety-outcomes/1-in-3-patients-may-have-neurological-issues-after-covid-19-experts-say.html
“Long after the fire of a Covid-19 infection, mental and neurological effects can still smolder, STAT, Aug. 12, 2020. Based on Postolache’s observations.
Why am I doing this?
The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. It is my intention to journal the pandemic experience from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary crisis.
You are on History’s Edge.