The Covid Long-haulers
Most people who get the coronavirus are sick for about two weeks and then recover completely. But for some unfortunate folks, the effects of this destructive virus can last for months. Those who continue to have a wide variety of symptoms are called “long-haulers.”
We all know that the Covid-19 virus is the cause of our world-wide pandemic and that we can avoid catching it by being vaccinated, wearing masks, social distancing and carefully washing hands. But viruses are persistent and the newer strains are very contagious. Strangely, those who continue to suffer the effects of the virus months after having it may even be those who had a relatively mild case.
There is much to learn about this new virus and studies will continue to increase the body of knowledge around the issues it presents. For now, we know that the long-term effects can be any number of ailments including fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, muscle aches, elevated heartrate, dizziness, fever, and certain mental health concerns such as depression or anxiety.
Covid predominantly affects the lungs, but now we know that the brain and the heart may also be affected due to increased formation of blood clots. This can cause heart attacks or strokes or blood vessel damage which, in turn, causes problems with the liver and kidneys.
- Lungs: In the lungs Covid usually causes pneumonia. That causes damage to the tiny air sacs (alveoli) and a build-up of scar tissue which affects breathing
- Brain: Covid can cause strokes, seizures and Guillain-Barre syndrome which causes temporary paralysis. There is also an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
- Heart: Covid can cause lasting damage to heart tissue even in mild cases.
- Some adults and children experience MIS (multisystem inflammatory syndrome) in which organs and tissues of the body become severely inflamed.
- Some patients who improve after having been in ICU care develop cases much like PTSD sufferers involving depression and anxiety
- Loss of taste and smell is another possible long-term effect of Covid
Because Covid-19 is such a new problem, scientists are studying similar diseases such as the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome and the MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) to learn who suffered long-lasting effects after contracting those diseases and why. Though those diseases affected fewer people, they had similar negative effects on those who contracted it.
No one knows how long Covid will disrupt our daily lives. It may eventually become an annual vaccination in our health maintenance routines. All of us have experienced major ups and downs with this world-wide health threat, but for those who had the virus and recovered, there will be a percentage who continue to battle the effects for a very long time.
Current treatments for long-haulers include breathing exercises, physical therapy, and medications. But full understanding of the problems is a work in progress.
For now prevention is the best option. Get your vaccinations, follow the safety guidelines in place and use good judgment when it comes to your social interactions.
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