The long and the short of COVID-19
Covid-19 appears to be the gift that keeps on giving – as the origin of a global pandemic that’s fast approaching its one year anniversary in December; there is still so much we have yet to come to grips with when it comes to the virus. While we are now well-aware of most of the common symptoms and after-effects of the virus as they have been widely documented, published and circulated as part of the on-going global efforts to curb the spread of the virus through preventative practices and social distancing, there is still a lot that we don’t know about the virus and what the long-term ramifications or effects are on those that have been infected and recovered.
A term that is cropping up more and more is Long-Covid, which as it turns out, might be as scary as it sounds. As the name indicates, Long-Covid refers to the increasingly common global occurrence of those that have been infected by COVID-19 to experience prolonged symptoms and effects long after the virus has supposedly run its course. If we take a look at the global infection averages in terms of how people experience COVID-19 once infected, it could be broken down into three main categories: asymptomatic, mild and severe. It is estimated that approximately 40% of all those infected do not experience any symptoms to indicate that they have the virus, the remainder of the effected population can be divided among the remaining two classifications, the mild sufferers i.e. those that do not require hospitalisation but experience one or more of the virus’ symptoms which takes the lions share, which means that the smallest percentage are those who experience the more severe effects and can end up in hospital, and require assistance breathing through the likes of oxygen or even use of a ventilator. However, as it transpires there is a fourth category – the Long-Covid sufferers.
So, what differentiates Long-Covid (besides the obvious of course) and how can we determine who it effects and how can it be managed? Given that Covid-19 is still a relatively new virus – there is still a lot to learn, which now includes working to define Long-Covid as well as how best to tackle it globally, in addition to the management and continuous preventative action required in combating COVID-19 as a whole. Currently, there is no official globally accepted definition of Long-Covid, therefore the key distinguishing factor at this stage is the duration of the symptoms experienced by the person infected. As it stands, the indicator that an infected person may have Covid-19 is if the symptoms persist past the initial 28 day period. If the symptoms surpass this, then the person may be suffering from Long-Covid, the symptoms of which can differ from person to person and can range in severity, which according to the Scientist Collective can include “ fatigue, muscle pains, weakness and low-grade fever; cough, shortness of breath, chest pain (lung burn); headaches, cognitive blunting (brain fog), pins and needles, rashes such as chilblain-like lesions (Covid toe); mental health conditions; and conditions relating to clotting in blood vessels.” In general though, fatigue seems to be one of the symptoms that are hardest to shake.
What happens if you have Long-Covid and what can you do? Firstly, it is important to note that you are not alone and that you are not going mad, unfortunately your recovery is just going to take a bit longer, but the large majority of those who have Long-Covid recover over time. There is no set timeline for this, so the focus therefore needs to be on your personal health and not how long it takes, although this is easier said than done. The current medical advice around Long-Covid encourages patients to focus on the things that they can control and endeavour to adopt a “holistic approach” in terms of treating the varying array of symptoms.