The new pandemic is long COVID — and it’s destroying lives

Exclusive: Joel S. Hirschhorn covers latest reporting on the travails of millions of sufferers.

Exclusive: Joel S. Hirschhorn covers latest reporting on the travails of millions of sufferers

Joel S. Hirschhorn
WND News Center

The COVID pandemic meanders on with many people still becoming infected, hospitalized and even dying. And despite all of its shortcomings and dangers, COVID vaccines are still pushed by the medical and public health establishments and government agencies as the solution. New variants of the virus keep emerging, making vaccines increasingly ineffective. Meanwhile, a new global pandemic becomes more and more prevalent with hardly any help for victims from the medical world. What is the new pandemic? The long COVID pandemic.

It may not be killing people, just destroying their lives.

Long COVID hits many millions of people who were infected, regardless of whether they were asymptomatic, very ill, young or old, vaccinated or not. Victims usually have a large number of debilitating symptoms affecting their behavior, organs and cognitive capabilities. All the medical world is doing is sending victims to many specialists who only try to address their symptoms. But there are no cures. In many ways the new pandemic is worse than the original one because victims have little reason to be hopeful of regaining their normal lives. They may suffer for years.

Also to be noted are some findings that COVID vaccines themselves may cause long COVID. This article is worth serious attention: “In rare cases, coronavirus vaccines may cause long COVID-like symptoms.” Limited evidence may not be compelling but also cannot be ignored.

A related issue is whether COVID vaccines reduce the probability of getting long COVID. This article targets this question: “Long COVID risk falls only slightly after vaccination, huge study shows.” It noted, “Vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 lowers the risk of long COVID after infection by only about 15%, according to a study of more than 13 million people. That’s the largest cohort that has yet been used to examine how much vaccines protect against the condition, but it is unlikely to end the uncertainty.”

Here is good article on the long-term significance of long COVID: “Vaccines are no match for long COVID. … Failure to recognize the need for a response could be a blunder we rue for decades to come. … Whatever your standpoint on whether the pandemic is over, or what ‘living with the virus’ should mean, it is clear some manifestation of COVID-19 will be with us for some time to come. Not least for the estimated 1.7 million people in the U.K. living with long COVID.”

“And lest any who made a full and rapid recovery from infection still wonder whether long Covid might be a self-reported creation of the indolent, this is a now a large, well-documented, convergent cluster of clear physiological symptoms, and it is common to every part of the globe affected by COVID-19. Many sufferers of my acquaintance were keen cyclists, runners, skiers and dancers, but are now disabled and deprived of their former passions, while some are unable to resume their former professions. Doctors and scientists the world over now consider this a recognized part of the Sars-CoV-2 symptom profile.”

Here are some important findings from several recent articles.

Lingering Brain Problems Common After COVID – Can new initiative point to long COVID therapies?

From MedPage Today, June 29, 2022:

“At least one neuropsychiatric symptom has been reported in up to 90% of patients 6 months after COVID-19 hospitalization and in about 25% of non-hospitalized adults with COVID-19, a targeted rapid literature review showed.

“Sequelae rates differed depending on the spectrum of post-COVID complications evaluated, the severity, course, and time window from initial infection, and the methodology used to assess symptoms. …

“Commonly reported neuropsychiatric events that occurred 4 or more weeks after acute SARS-CoV-2 infection were cognitive impairment, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), fatigue, and headache, … [as reported] in JAMA Psychiatry.”

Physician Group Releases Guidance on Cardiovascular Issues in Long COVID

From MedPage Today, June 7, 2022:

“Risks for cardiovascular complications, including pulmonary embolism, arterial and venous thromboses, myocardial infarction, and stroke, are higher in patients with post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC), or long COVID, highlighting the need for greater awareness of these conditions among clinicians, according to a consensus statement released by the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (AAPM&R).

“Cardiovascular complications may arise weeks or months after a patient’s initial COVID-19 infection, with severity of the symptoms ranging from ‘mild to incapacitating,’ according to the PASC Collaborative, a multidisciplinary group of physicians, clinicians, and patient advocates, who developed the statement. They noted that 5% to 29% of COVID-19 survivors complain of cardiovascular symptoms such as chest pain, dyspnea, or palpitations months after their recovery from the acute infection.”

Long COVID symptoms are often overlooked in seniors

From the Washington Post, June 26, 2022:

“Nearly 18 months after getting the coronavirus and spending weeks in the hospital, Terry Bell struggles with hanging up his shirts and pants after doing the laundry.

“Lifting his clothes, raising his arms, arranging items in his closet leave Bell short of breath and often trigger severe fatigue. He walks with a cane, and only short distances. He’s 50 pounds lighter than when he was struck by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“Bell, 70, is among millions of older adults who have grappled with long COVID – a population that has received little attention even though research suggests seniors are more likely to develop the poorly understood condition than younger or middle-aged adults.”

Effect on older adults

Only now is the impact on older adults beginning to be documented. In a study published in the journal BMJ, researchers estimated that 32% of older adults in the United States who survived COVID infections had symptoms of long COVID up to four months after infection – more than double the 14% rate an earlier study found in adults ages 18 to 64. (Other studies suggest symptoms can last much longer, for a year or more.)

The BMJ study examined more than 87,000 adults 65 and older who had COVID infections in 2020, drawing on claims data from UnitedHealth Group’s Medicare Advantage plans. It included symptoms that lasted 21 days or more after an infection, a shorter period than the CDC uses in its long COVID definition. The data encompasses both older adults who were hospitalized because of COVID (27%) and those who were not (73%).

A study released last month from the CDC found that 1 out of every 4 older adults who survived COVID experienced at least 1 of 26 common symptoms associated with long COVID, compared with 1 out of every 5 people between the ages of 18 and 64.

For older individuals affected by long COVID, the consequences can be devastating: the onset of disability, the inability to work, reduced ability to carry out activities of daily life, and a lower quality of life.

Difficult to recognize

But in many seniors, long COVID is hard to recognize.

“The challenge is that nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, pain, confusion and increased frailty are things we often see in seriously ill older adults. Or people may think, ‘That’s just part of aging,'” said Charles Thomas Alexander Semelka, a postdoctoral fellow in geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University.

Ann Morse, 72, of Nashville, was diagnosed with COVID in November 2020 and recovered at home after a trip to the emergency room and follow-up home visits from nurses every few days. She soon began having trouble with her memory, attention and speech, as well as sleep problems and severe fatigue. Although she has improved somewhat, several cognitive issues and fatigue still persist.

“What was frustrating was I would tell people my symptoms and they’d say, ‘Oh, we’re like that too,’ as if this was about getting older,” she told me. “And I’m like, but this happened to me suddenly, almost overnight.”

‘Significant differences’

James Jackson, director of long-term outcomes at Vanderbilt’s Critical Illness, Brain Dysfunction, and Survivorship Center, runs several long COVID support groups that Morse and Bell attend and has worked with hundreds of similar patients. He said he estimates that about a third of those who are older have some degree of cognitive impairment.

“We know there are significant differences between younger and older brains,” Jackson said. “Younger brains are more plastic and effective at reconstituting, and our younger patients seem able to regain their cognitive functioning more quickly.”

Life-changing infection

Erica Spatz, director of the preventive cardiovascular health program at Yale, is one of Richard Gard’s physicians. Gard, 67, who lives just outside New Haven, Connecticut, had COVID-19 in 2020 and subsequently has spent more than two months total in the hospital, usually for symptoms that resemble a heart attack.

“The more severe the COVID infection and the older you are, the more likely it is you’ll have a cardiovascular complication after,” Spatz said. Complications include weakening of the heart muscle, blood clots, abnormal heart rhythms, vascular system damage and high blood pressure.

Gard’s life has changed in ways he never imagined. Unable to work, he takes 22 medications and can still walk only 10 minutes on level ground. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a frequent, unwanted companion.

“A lot of times, it’s been difficult to go on, but I tell myself I just have to get up and try one more time,” he said. “Every day that I get a little bit better, I tell myself I’m adding another day or week to my life.”

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