The burden of living with long COVID

Omicron’s race across the globe has amped up concerns about long COVID, which some estimates suggest affects a third of COVID-19 survivors.

Long COVID symptoms can include pain, fatigue and brain fog weeks or months after the initial infection.

Nancy Rose, a Port Jefferson, New York resident, has felt the effects of long COVID for months after her COVID-19 diagnosis.

“I knew I wasn’t right. I knew I still had symptoms,” Rose said.

It’s too soon to know whether people infected with the highly contagious omicron variant will develop the mysterious constellation of symptoms, usually diagnosed many weeks after the initial illness.

But some experts think a wave of long COVID is likely and say doctors need to be prepared for it.

Immunobiologist Akiko Iwasaki is studying the tantalizing possibility that COVID-19 vaccination might reduce long COVID symptoms.

Her team at Yale University is collaborating with a patient group called Survivor Corps on a study, that Rose was a participant in, that involves vaccinating previously unvaccinated long COVID patients as a possible treatment.

Iwasaki, who is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which supports The Associated Press’ Health and Science Department, said she is doing this study because patient groups have reported improvement in some people’s long COVID symptoms after they got their shots.

“If I’m going to get anything done, I have to get it done in the morning. That’s my best time. And if I’m like come by about two o’clock, I’m getting tired, which I didn’t used to, you know, that wasn’t part of my makeup before I could go, go, go,” Rose said.

Some of these symptoms may first appear during an initial infection but linger or recur a month or more later. Or new ones may develop, lasting for weeks, months or over a year.

Because so many of the symptoms occur with other illnesses, some scientists question whether the coronavirus is always the trigger.

Researchers hope their work will provide definitive answers.

Long COVID affects adults of all ages as well as children.

Research shows it is more prevalent among those who were hospitalized, but also strikes a significant portion who weren’t.

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