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May 29, 2024

Long COVID continues to impact millions globally with no clear treatments

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Dec 27, 2023

Recent studies and news reports highlight the ongoing challenges and unknowns around the long-term effects of COVID-19 infections, known as long COVID. Key updates show high rates of long COVID symptoms persist, especially in Africa, while potential treatments remain elusive.

Nearly 50% of COVID-19 cases in Africa result in long COVID

A concerning study published this week in The Lancet found nearly 50% of surveyed COVID-19 cases in Africa reported experiencing long COVID symptoms, primarily fatigue, muscle pains, and sleep difficulties. This rate is significantly higher than seen in many other parts of the world.

With Africa’s population exceeding 1.4 billion, high long COVID rates could have a devastating impact. Study author Dr. Nachiket Mor emphasized the implications given Africa’s lack of social safety nets:

“There are people who are bedridden for months, unable to work or attend school. The economic and social costs are inestimable.”

Long COVID rates this high illustrate the urgent need for increased analysis around causes, prevention, and viable treatments.

Repeated infections raise long COVID risk

Experts continue to warn that each new COVID-19 infection increases long COVID risks, including for young, healthy individuals.

A December analysis of US Veterans Health data found prior infections were strongly predictive of developing long COVID symptoms. Those with three or more infections saw substantially higher incidence of conditions like heart disease, blood disorders, fatigue, liver disease, kidney failure, and mental health issues versus those never infected.

Number of infections Odds ratio for developing some long COVID symptoms
1 1.75x
2 2.5x
3+ 3.5x

Lead researcher Dr Ziyad Al-Aly noted, “The risk increased with each infection. We need to think about long COVID as a chronic condition.”

With immunity waning after 3-6 months per infection and new variants continuing to emerge, repetitive infections seem likely for many. This points to more long COVID cases without improved guidance around prevention and treatment.

Shortage of proven long COVID therapies leave many struggling

Millions globally battle long COVID complications like extreme fatigue, heart issues, and brain fog. Stories abound of previously active people now dependent on extensive help for basic functioning.

However, lack of proven treatment pathways leave many “desperate.” Trials continue on varied therapies from steroids to diet changes, with little consistency on what works. Certain centers specializing in long COVID, like the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Research clinic, offer some hope. But access is limited.

In the absence of standardized guidance, some venture into alternative medicine seeking relief. Treatments range from stretching to acupuncture to questionable infusions. But experts urge caution on unvalidated therapies which “often cost thousands of dollars and are not covered by insurance.” Unfortunately desperation pushes many to try anything promising help.

Relationships strained by long COVID misunderstanding

Physical impacts aside, many long COVID patients battle social isolation and relationship stress tied lack of awareness.

As recently reported, friends and family often misunderstand long COVID severity and chastise patients for not “pushing through”, resulting in rifts. Spouses may become overwhelmed by new care-giving demands. Employers question work ethic as cognitive issues drag on.

Psychologist Melanie Dimmitt notes the parallels to past ME/CFS outbreaks, where “social neglect and loneliness” compounded physical symptoms. She advises compassion towards long COVID patients, while pushing governments for research funding and support programs.

Though long COVID remains poorly understood by many, its extensive impacts on all facets of patient health and wellbeing continue to emerge. Increased awareness, research, and viable treatment options cannot come soon enough for those affected.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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