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Monday, December 5, 2022

Long COVID Cases Spike Amid the Omicron Variant Outbreak

Rebekah Hogan is still suffering from severe brain fog, discomfort, and weariness more than a year after contracting COVID-19, making it impossible for her to work as a nurse or manage home tasks.

Her worth as a wife and mother has been questioned by COVID for a long time.

“Will this be the case indefinitely?” Is this the new normal?” wondered the 41-year-old mother from Latham, New York, whose three children and husband are all affected. “I want my life back,” she says.

According to some estimates, more than a third of COVID-19 survivors will experience long-term effects. Now that omicron is sweeping the globe, experts are scrambling to identify the source of the perplexing ailment and provide therapies before long COVID cases explode.

Is it possible that you have an autoimmune disease? This might explain why long COVID-19 affects women more than males, since women are more likely to acquire autoimmune disorders. Could microclots be to blame for a variety of ailments, from memory loss to discolored toes? That seems plausible, because COVID-19 can cause irregular blood coagulation.

As these and other ideas are examined, new data suggests that immunization may lessen the risk of long-term COVID.

A few major hypotheses are gaining traction.

One is that the virus’s infection or leftovers survive after the original sickness, causing inflammation and persistent COVID.

Another is that dormant viruses in the body, such as the mononucleosis-causing Epstein-Barr virus, are reactivated. Epstein-Barr in the blood was identified as one of four possible risk factors in a recent study published in the journal Cell, along with pre-existing Type 2 diabetes, coronavirus RNA, and specific antibodies in the blood. More study is needed to back up those conclusions.

A further notion is that autoimmune reactions emerge after exposure to COVID-19 for a short period of time.

Virus infections trigger antibodies that combat invading virus proteins in a normal immune response. However, antibodies might become too active in the aftermath and assault healthy cells. It’s suspected that this phenomenon has a role in autoimmune disorders like lupus and multiple sclerosis.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, including Justyna Fert-Bober and Dr. Susan Cheng, discovered that some persons who have had COVID-19, including cases without symptoms, had a variety of these increased “autoantibodies” up to six months after recovering. Some of the genes are the same as those identified in patients who have autoimmune disorders.

Another idea is that in lengthy COVID, small clots play a role. Many COVID-19 patients have an increase in inflammatory chemicals, which can lead to irregular coagulation. Blood clots can form all over the body, causing strokes, heart attacks, and deadly obstructions in the legs and limbs.

Resia Pretorius of Stellenbosch University in South Africa discovered microclots in blood samples from patients with COVID-19 and those who later acquired extended COVID in her lab. She also discovered high protein levels in the plasma, which prevented the clots from breaking down normally.

She believes that these clotting irregularities continue in many people after a coronavirus infection, reducing oxygen delivery to cells and tissue throughout the body and causing most, if not all, of the symptoms associated with chronic COVID.

While there isn’t a definitive list of symptoms, the most prevalent include exhaustion, memory and cognitive issues, loss of taste and smell, shortness of breath, sleeplessness, anxiety, and sadness.

Some of these symptoms may develop within the first few days of an illness, but they may remain or repeat a month or more later. Alternatively, new ones may emerge, lasting weeks, months, or even a year.

Some experts doubt that the coronavirus is usually the culprit because so many of the symptoms are shared with other disorders. The researchers are hoping that their findings would give conclusive answers.

Adults of all ages, as well as children, are affected by long COVID. According to research, it is more common among individuals who have been hospitalized, but it also affects a considerable number of those who have not.

Jacki Graham, a retired flight attendant, had COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, but it didn’t put her in the hospital. However, she began to feel dyspnea and a beating heart a few months later. She was unable to taste or smell anything. Her blood pressure began to rise.

She grew so exhausted in the fall of 2020 that her morning yoga would send her back to bed.

Graham, 64, of Studio City, California, said, “I’m an early riser, so I’d wake up and push myself, but then I’d be done for the day.” “I would have told you six months ago that COVID had devastated my life.”

Hogan, a New York nurse, was not hospitalized when she was diagnosed with COVID-19, but she has been incapacitated ever since. Her handicapped veteran husband and three children, aged 9, 13, and 15, became ill shortly after and were unwell for nearly a month with fever, stomach problems, and weakness. Then everything seemed to improve a little until new problems developed.

Hogan’s physicians believe she was predisposed to the ailment because of autoimmune irregularities and a pre-existing connective tissue disorder that causes joint discomfort.

There are no particular therapies for extended COVID, while painkillers, medications used for other disorders, and physical therapy have helped some individuals. However, further assistance may be on the way.

Akiko Iwasaki, an immunobiologist, is investigating the intriguing prospect that COVID-19 vaccine might diminish long-term COVID symptoms. Her Yale University team is working with Survivor Corps, a patient organization, on a trial that involves vaccination previously unvaccinated long COVID patients as a potential cure.

Iwasaki, who is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which sponsors The Associated Press’ Health and Science Department, said she is conducting this research since some people’s lengthy COVID symptoms had improved after they received their injections.

Nancy Rose, 67, of Port Jefferson, New York, claimed that after getting vaccinated, many of her symptoms went away, albeit she still suffers weariness and memory loss.

Two new studies, one from the United States and the other from Israel, provide early evidence that getting vaccinated before contracting COVID-19 can help avoid or at least lessen the severity of the illness. Both were completed prior to the appearance of omicron.

Although neither study has been published in a peer-reviewed publication, experts agree the findings are promising.

About two-thirds of the patients in the Israeli trial received one or two Pfizer injections, while the rest were unvaccinated. Those who had gotten two doses were at least half as likely as those who had not been immunized to experience fatigue, headache, muscular weakness or discomfort, and other prevalent long COVID symptoms.

The future for patients is uncertain due to a lack of clear solutions.

Many people, including Graham, notice progress over time. She sought treatment at Cedars-long-running Sinai’s COVID program, where she joined in a trial in April 2021 and was vaccinated and boosted.

Her blood pressure is now normal, and her sense of smell and energy level are returning to pre-COVID levels, she added. Despite this, she was forced to retire early due to her tragedy.

Hogan continues to suffer from excruciating nerve pain and “spaghetti legs,” or limbs that become weak and unable to bear weight, a condition that her 13-year-old son also suffers from.

Some experts are concerned that extended COVID may develop into a kind of chronic fatigue syndrome in some people, a poorly known, long-term illness with no cure or authorized therapy.

One thing is certain, according to some experts: long COVID will have a massive impact on individuals, health-care systems, and economies all around the world, costing billions of dollars.

Even if they have insurance, patients might end up owing thousands of dollars while they are unable to work. Graham, for example, claimed she spent roughly $6,000 on scans, labs, medical visits, and chiropractic therapy out of pocket.

Pretorius, a South African scientist, expressed concern that things may deteriorate further.

“There are so many folks who are losing their jobs and their houses.” “They are unable to work,” she stated. “Long COVID is likely to be more damaging to our economy than acute COVID.”

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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