Long haulers face debilitating months of recovery — but chronic symptoms are not unique to COVID

Credit: Harry Haysom
Credit: Harry Haysom

The dominant narrative about long Covid has been that it’s a uniquely perplexing feature of Covid-19. Reports of “Covid brain fog” or “Covid dementia,” for example, suggest a disturbing and extraordinary ability of the coronavirus to destroy the lives of survivors. 

While there’s no doubt long Covid is a real condition worthy of diagnosis and treatment, “this isn’t unique to Covid,” Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at the Yale School of Medicine, said. Covid-19 appears to be one of many infections, from Ebola to strep throat, that can give rise to stubbornly persistent symptoms in an unlucky subset of patients. “If Covid didn’t cause chronic symptoms to occur in some people,” PolyBio Research Foundation microbiologist Amy Proal told Vox, “it would be the only virus that didn’t do that.”

Even with growing awareness about long Covid, patients with chronic “medically unexplained” symptoms — that don’t correspond to problematic blood tests or imaging — are still too often minimized and dismissed by health professionals. It’s a frustrating blind spot in health care.

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“It has always been [and] is the case that patients who get sick experience high levels of symptoms like those described by long-Covid patients,” [Johns Hopkins’ Megan Hosey] said. “We have just done a terrible job of acknowledging [and] treating them.”

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Infographic: Deaths from COVID-19 are far higher than reported estimates

Infographic: Deaths from COVID-19 are far higher than reported estimates

More than 2.8 million people have lost their lives due to the pandemic, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis ...
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