Long COVID is an overlooked but serious risk of COVID-19

BILLIONMr. USA has recently veered sharply towards “living with”, rather than trying to avoid, COVID-19. Masks are no longer recommended for use in the home by Americans in most parts of the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and many mask and vaccine requirements have been abolished in even the most cautious parts of the country. . In a poll Conducted in March by Axios-Ipsos, 66% of Americans said they think COVID-19 poses little or no risk.

No wonder people want to relax a bit. For most people who are vaccinated and vaccinated, a case of COVID-19 is unlikely to lead to serious illness. But some experts say the risk Long COVID— the name for symptoms that persist months or even more than a year after a case of COVID-19 — is real enough to worry both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Long-term COVID is both potentially debilitating and relatively rare, which makes the risk difficult to determine. Michael Lin, an infectious disease specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said it’s too early to say whether Omicron infections will lead to more or fewer long-lasting COVID cases than the variants. before.

“The short answer is, at this point, we don’t know enough” to offer specific advice on how Long COVID should fit into risk calculations, says Lin.

Who is more likely to have long-term COVID?

There is no single record of a long COVID patient. Estimate 10% to 30% of people with COVID-19 develop some degree of persistent symptoms, although vaccination significantly reduces an individual’s odds of getting sick. This condition affects the elderly and young after mild and severe cases of COVID-19. Women seem to make a disproportionately large percentages of patients, but all sexes are vulnerable. Many people with persistent illness, as those with Long COVID are sometimes known, were active and healthy before they got sick, while others had pre-existing medical conditions.

No one knows exactly what causes some people to get it. Recent studies explored potential risk factors — from diagnoses of asthma and type 2 diabetes to immune system problems — but that research is still ongoing.

How to reduce the risk of long-term COVID

Both vaccinated and unvaccinated people developed long-term COVID. But getting vaccinated is one of the best known ways to reduce your risk — aside from never getting infected, of course.

A recent study from researchers at the UK’s Office for National Statistics found that adults who become infected after two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are less likely to report symptoms of Long COVID later in life. about 40% more infected than unvaccinated people. In the study, about 9.5% of vaccinated people and 15% of unvaccinated people reported symptoms 12 weeks after infection. Another subjects– most of them are small – achieved similar estimates.

“You are less likely to get Long COVID if you are fully vaccinated,” said Dr Wes Ely, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine who studies Long COVID. mean.”

Linda Loxley, a 55-year-old long-term trader living in Rhode Island, contracted COVID-19 in March 2021, the same week she received her second dose of the vaccine. After avoiding the virus for all of 2020 — despite working at a senior center where she was likely exposed — and getting her first dose of the vaccine, “I think I’m safe,” Loxley speak.

Instead, COVID-19 left her with severe headaches, debilitating fatigue, nerve pain, and cognitive dysfunction. Her symptoms became so severe that she had to quit her job and after a year of illness, she Still haven’t found a treatment that makes a significant difference.

Loxley says the experiences of longtime addicts should be a reminder that COVID-19 is a serious threat. “This is the truth,” she said. “We got this virus and couldn’t get rid of it.”

How worried should I be about Long COVID?

While anyone can get Long COVID and vaccination is a good – but imperfect – way to cut risk, it is virtually impossible for anyone to accurately calculate their chances of getting the disease.

Robyn Wilson, a professor of decision science and risk analysis at Ohio State University, says humans like certainty. “We want [the chances of something to be] 0 or 100. Anything in between, often our perceptions or calculations will be biased” depending on individual risk tolerance, circumstances, or experience with the threat in question, she said. For example, a person whose spouse has had a long-term illness with COVID may overestimate the likelihood of contracting the disease, while someone who does not know who has the disease may overestimate the price.

Even experts distinguish on how long-term COVID affects an individual risk calculation.

“The primary focus on acute symptoms and hospitalizations and deaths is the main driver for avoiding COVID,” said Lin, because so little is known about Long COVID.

But Ely says people shouldn’t forget Long COVID either. “Anyone who is healthy and wants to stay healthy and live a normal lifestyle will have to be aware that Long COVID is a possibility and act accordingly, such as by wear N95, KN95 or other protective mask in indoor public settings, he said.

With so much to learn, Wilson says it’s up to each person to decide how risks like Long COVID will affect their behaviour. One person may decide the mental health benefits of returning to “normal” make any associated risks worthwhile, while another may decide the peace of mind makes continuing. prudence becomes worthwhile. There is no inherent right or wrong, as long as people are not intentionally endangering others or making those around them uncomfortable, Wilson said.

When precise risk calculations aren’t possible, “you have to rely on mental shortcuts” that allow you to make tough choices, she says. During the pandemic, Wilson delayed CDC guidelines whenever she has to make a decision — which, these days, means she feels quite comfortable easing precautions.

“I still encourage people to look to professionals to find out what is right for them,” she said. “But if you are on a personal level uncomfortable with that uncertainty… do whatever you have to.”

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