The Long Haul
By Galen Lastko,
Published in the Humboldt Independent on May 25, 2021
For all the sound and fury and shenanigans COVID-19 has dumped unceremoniously in our laps over the past year, the disease was never prone to causing drawn-out infections: for better or for worse, within a few weeks, you’ll likely be on the mend, even before the vaccine. And while this brevity is especially merciful given the high rate of hospitalization, research and evidence continue to suggest that the disease can have lingering effects long after recovery.
Former COVID patients found that fatigue was the most common effect of long COVID.
There have been plenty of reports on the long-term effects of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Those experiencing negative effects more than four weeks after recovering from COVID-19 are considered to be experiencing “post-COVID conditions”, which typically manifest in the form of persistent fatigue, headache, or spells of dizziness, but a wide variety of symptoms have been reported, including the loss of taste and/or smell, joint and chest pain, fever, anxiety, and depression. The so-called “Long COVID” can occur regardless of how strongly affected an individual was by the disease itself and has even been reported in patients whose infection was almost entirely asymptomatic.
A six-month study of discharged former COVID patients found that fatigue was the most common effect of long COVID, with some 63% of patients 47-65 years old reporting fatigue, 26% reporting trouble sleeping, and 23% reporting depression. Post-intensive care syndrome or PICS can leave those patients who’ve recently been hospitalized at an increased risk of mental health and clarity issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which may serve to exacerbate the lingering effects of the disease. Until more time passes, it will be difficult to determine exactly how widespread or threatening post-COVID conditions will turn out to be, but according to the CDC most of those experiencing these symptoms are improving over time.
COVID-19’s lingering effects also include autoimmune disorders, which were first linked to the disease over a year ago when COVID patients in Italy were affected by Guillain-Barre syndrome, a nerve disorder which can lead to temporary paralysis. Medical professionals have also linked a variety of immune-related blood disorders to COVID infections. Autoimmune conditions are provoked when the body’s defenses become overly enthusiastic in their fight against a disease, mistakenly taking out their vitriol on the body itself rather than the intended targets. Researchers have noted a “derangement” of the immune system in COVID patients beginning last October. Autoantibodies, or antibodies designed to target our own immune systems, were detected in over half of COVID patients in a study this January, compared to about 15% of the general population.
Be sure to encourage anyone you know experiencing anything like these lasting effects to take them seriously and visit a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Galen Lastko, submitted on behalf of the SoHum Health’s Outreach department.