The Latest COVID Strain Brings Back a Horrifying Complication
The Latest COVID Strain Brings Back a Horrifying Complication
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Rates of death and hospitalisation due to COVID are decreasing globally. Although we have been able to lessen the severity of the worst effects of the 33-month-old epidemic, this should not be mistaken for a lack of urgency.
While the number of people who are able to avoid hospitalisation due to COVID continues to rise, the number of people who must contend with the virus’s long-lasting effects is also rising. Fatigue. Troubles with one’s heart. The stomach hurts. Difficulties breathing. Confusion. The presence of symptoms that persist long after the infection has resolved.
Among those who contracted SARS-CoV-2 this summer, a recent study from City University of New York found that 21 percent developed protracted COVID beginning four weeks after infection.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded a 19% increase on the same measure in June.
The current fatality and hospitalisation rates for COVID in the United States are 3% and.3%, respectively. The most dangerous consequence of any novel coronavirus infection is long COVID. And it seems like that’s becoming an increasingly likely scenario.
This may be our last, best hope for permanently defeating COVID.
While American adults were the primary target of the CUNY study, the findings have global significance despite the lack of peer review. Long-term symptoms are increasingly taking the place of COVID deaths over the world. After all, the greater the number of COVID survivors, the greater the number of persons who may experience long-term effects. COVID has a cumulative effect; once someone gets sick, they tend to stay that way for a while.
Epidemiologist and principal author of the CUNY study Denis Nash speculated to The Daily Beast that the total number of persons with long COVID in the U.S. might be increasing despite increased protection against long COVID from immunisation. What this means is that there are more new cases of long COVID each day than there are people who recover from having long COVID.
However, the worldwide epidemiological community does not place a high premium on learning about extended COVID, let alone taking measures to prevent it. Nash has stated that this must alter. In addition to trying to reduce hospitalizations and mortality rates, “I believe it is long past time to be working on extended COVID.”
About 500,000 new COVID cases have been reported each day globally in recent weeks, according to official statistics. Not quite as low as the lowest point in time when case rates dropped, which was in February 2021 when health officials recorded an average of 400k new cases per day. In any case, it’s not far off.
Despite this staggering rate of COVID infections, it is astonishing that only a small percentage of these cases result in death. Recently, the daily death toll has been hovering around 1,700, which is about one-fifth as high as it was in February 2017 when the daily rate of new infections was only slightly higher.
There has been a decline in the number of people hospitalised with a severe case of COVID. Although worldwide data is unavailable, the number of COVID-related hospitalizations in the United States has decreased from 15,000 per day 19 months ago to 3,700 per day now.
The decline in fatalities and hospitalizations can be easily explained. Somewhere approximately two-thirds of adults all across the world have had some form of vaccination. Antibodies from previous infections are carried by billions of humans. Each antibody acts to mitigate the worst possible results.
In contrast, reports of lengthy COVID seem to be on the rise. One possible explanation is the high rate of reinfection. Six percent of the population contracts the virus more than once at the present time. A team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine and the U.S. Veterans Administration’s Saint Louis Health Care System determined this summer that chronic COVID patients who have recurrent infections are at an increased risk of a wide range of complications. The length of time spent in COVID increases with the number of times an infection is re-incubated.
According to the figures that Nash’s group crunched back in July, almost 18 million adults in the United States were suffering from extended COVID at that time. The global caseload for extended COVID may have exceeded 560 million by the end of the summer if the same rate holds true everywhere.
Because of the summertime increase in BA.5 infections, the current estimate is likely far higher: one million new cases each day globally in July.
What was unexpected for Nash and his group was that not everyone has the same chance of developing lengthy COVID. Researchers at CUNY showed that young persons and women were more susceptible to contracting lengthy COVID. Nash speculated that the higher immunisation rate among the elderly could account for the former. However, the latter is still unknown. He speculated that more research into these communities would help shed light on potential causal elements.
Scientists and health officials may be trying to figure out why men and women have different levels of long-term risk for COVIDs, among other unsolved questions. Perhaps they are also developing public health campaigns and vaccines targeted at long COVID.
In spite of this, Nash claims that not much is being done to reduce the possibility of chronic symptoms. After nearly three years of the COVID epidemic, the primary goal of public health officials is still to reduce the number of COVID-related hospitalizations and fatalities.
“Since there is a large degree of long COVID among persons who have only had mild or less severe SARS-CoV-2 infections,” Nash said, “exclusively focusing on these outcomes could possibly make the long COVID situation worse.”
Another Disturbing Turn in the Nightmare of COVID Mutation
This is one way in which long-term COVID might be seen as a crisis in silence. One that could affect over 500 million people but receives little attention in terms of scientific study or government health policy. Epidemiologist Cindy Prins from the University of Florida said to The Daily Beast, “It’s absolutely valuable to save lives, but quality of life is quite important, too,” adding that it can be lacking in patients who have extended COVID.
Of course, we are not helpless in the face of prolonged COVID. The risk of either short- or long-term COVID can be reduced with the same interventions that minimise the chances of hospitalisation and mortality from COVID. Be sure to get your shots. Maintain a healthy level of boosters. Put on a mask if you must be in a public building.
SARS-CoV-2 is on an upward trajectory, thus long COVID may become more of a threat even to the most cautious of individuals, necessitating targeted interventions. There has been further viral mutation. Each new strain is typically more infectious than the ones that came before it, leading to an increase in the frequency of breakthrough infections even among those who have received all available vaccinations and boosters.
If you have been keeping up with your vaccinations, the likelihood that you may contract COVID and require medical attention is low. However, there is a significant and presumably growing risk that it may make you unwell, perhaps for a very long time.