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Krishna: No, scientists and doctors are not crazy. There is a thing called Long Covid or Long Haul Covid.

Long-haul COVID-19 refers to the long-term symptoms people may experience after recovering from the disease.

COVID-19 long-haulers may experience symptoms such as fatigue, body aches, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, headache, and loss of taste or smell. There may be a specific order for long-term COVID-19 symptoms. The first symptoms to emerge are often flu-like: fatigue, headache, fever, and chills.

For some people, COVID-19, no matter its severity, is a one-and-done event, with symptoms clearing up within 2 to 6 weeks of infection with the coronavirus. For others, the initial illness can be just the beginning of an extended period of complications, sometimes even for people who were only mildly ill due to the infection. Such symptoms may come in waves, cropping up at regular intervals.

Research suggests that 50 to 80 percent of people who recover from COVID-19 experience at least some lingering after-effects 3 months after infection with the coronavirus.

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients have been particularly hard hit by the long-term effects of infection. Roughly 12% of these patients die within months of being discharged from the hospital, found a recent analysis of nearly 48,000 patients in the UK. Nearly 30% are re-admitted to hospital. Respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes diagnoses are also raised in these individuals compared with matched controls. (1)

The long-term impacts of infection on non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients are more difficult to assess, but a concerning picture has emerged there as well. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 10% of COVID-19 survivors — including both hospitalized and non-hospitalized individuals — have persistent problems 12 weeks after infection.

Long COVID manifests in various ways, affecting the heart, the lungs, the gastrointestinal system, the brain, mental health and more. The most common reported issues are breathlessness, fatigue, smell and taste disturbance, and anxiety, found a living systematic review of studies of the condition in hospitalized and non-hospitalized patients. For some individuals, these issues can be debilitating. The symptoms reported affect nearly every organ system.

Women were also more likely to report symptoms. They accounted for 72 percent of COVID-19 long-haulers.

Numerous possibilities have been proposed.

During the acute phase of COVID-19, direct viral toxicity, immune system dysregulation and more can wreak havoc on different organs. Lingering cellular damage or subsequent scarring might cause some of the longer-term problems. The immune system might remain out of whack even after the infection has resolved, with autoantibodies and other immune responses driving deleterious effects. Or, a lasting viral reservoir and residual viral material might be the issue.

The good news for people who are experiencing symptoms in waves is that the waves do seem to get milder over time, at least anecdotally.

Footnotes:

1. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41573-021-00069-9?utm_source=Natur...

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