TIPP Insights: How common is long COVID?

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A few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing symptoms and lack of full recovery among symptomatic patients became a niggling worry for health workers and people struggling to get back to their pre-COVID routines. The term “long COVID” slowly made its appearance in the media, leading to much concern among the public.

According to the CDC website, “Some people who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience long-term effects from their infection, known as post-COVID conditions (PCC) or long COVID.” It goes on to state, “There is no test to diagnose post-COVID conditions, and people may have a wide variety of symptoms that could come from other health problems.”

Though the studies are ongoing, it has become clear that a significant percentage of those who have been infected continue to struggle with symptoms, weeks and months after they contracted the coronavirus.

In our recent IBD/TIPP poll, we asked 1310 Americans, “Do you know of any acquaintances, friends, or family members who fit the descriptions below? Has/had Long COVID

  • 43% Yes
  • 57% No

Considering that nearly half of the respondents answered in the affirmative, the prevalence and spread of long COVID is a cause for concern.

A recent study by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine of long COVID sufferers revealed that “while many patients showed improvement, the majority still had some neurological symptoms after six months.” According to their reports, seven percent of the study’s participants presented symptoms that included cognitive deficits (like memory impairment and decreased concentration), tremors and difficulty balancing. Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 Infection with Tremor, Ataxia, and Cognitive Deficit (PASC-TAC) is what the researchers have called the condition.

Senior author Jennifer S. Graves, associate professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and neurologist at UC San Diego Health, said, “These are folks who had no neurological problems before COVID-19, and now they have an incoordination of their body and possible incoordination of their thoughts.”

Dr. Graves cautions, “We still need to know how common this is, what biological processes are causing this, and what ongoing health care these people will need. This work is an important first step to getting there.”

Another study by Penn State researchers found that “more than half of COVID-19 survivors experienced PASC 6 months after recovery. The most common PASC involved functional mobility impairments, pulmonary abnormalities, and mental health disorders. These long-term PASC effects occur on a scale that could overwhelm existing health care capacity, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.”

“More Than 50 Long-Term Effects of COVID-19: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”. Research Square. DOI:10.21203/rs.3.rs-266574/v1. PMID 33688642.

She called attention to the debilitating condition, saying, “To have people’s cognition and quality of life still impacted so long after the infection is something we as a society need to be taking a serious look at.” Should long COVID prevail and its numbers rise, it is evident that these people will require additional support and assistance from everyone including healthcare providers and employers.

As a cure remains elusive, the vaccine is the only weapon available in the fight against the virus. In the past few days, the FDA has authorized vaccines for children as young as five years of age. Beyond vaccine resistance and hesitancy among a small section of the population, the side effects of the vaccine have raised their own set of concerns.

The TIPP Poll asked, “Do you know of any acquaintances, friends, or family members who fit the descriptions below? Had serious adverse side effects to a COVID vaccine

  • 23% Yes
  • 77% No

A slightly higher percentage responded that they know of someone who has had not serious adverse side effects to the COVID vaccine.

  • 34% Yes
  • 66% No

Almost two and half years since it spread across the world, the coronavirus continues to mutate and spread, though, for now, the numbers are not alarmingly high. Medical professionals and epidemiologists continue to warn that the pandemic is far from over. Sadly, for a big chunk of the population, they are yet to recover fully from their bout with the Coronavirus.



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