Around the world, deaths and hospitalizations from COVID continue to fall. But our successful containment of the worst of the 33-month-old pandemic belies a growing crisis.
More and more people are surviving COVID and staying away from the hospital, but more and more people are doing it Also living with long-term symptoms of COVID. Fatigue. Heart problems. Stomach problems. lung problems. Confusion. Symptoms that can last for months or even a year or more after the infection disappears.
Up to 21 percent of Americans who contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus this summer developed long-term COVID illness four weeks after infection, according to a new study from the City University of New York.
That’s a 19 percent increase in numbers reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June.
Compare these numbers to the most recent death rates and hospitalizations from COVID in the US — 3 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. Long COVID is by far the most likely serious consequence of novel coronavirus infection. And possibly more and more likely.
The CUNY study, which is not yet peer-reviewed, focused on American adults, but the findings have implications around the world. Global are some long-term symptoms substitute Covid deaths. Because more COVID survivors mean more people at risk for long-term symptoms. And long COVID is cumulative – people get sick and stay sick for a while.
“Despite increased levels of protection from long COVID through vaccination, the overall number of people with long COVID in the US may be increasing,” epidemiologist Denis Nash, the lead author of the CUNY study, told The Daily Beast. That means more people every day catch long COVID than recovered from long COVID.
But understanding of long COVID, not to mention impede it is not a priority in the global epidemiological establishment. That has to change, Nash said. “I believe it’s long past time to focus on long COVID alongside preventing hospitalizations and deaths.”
In the past few weeks, authorities around the world have registered around half a million new COVID cases every day. That’s not quite as low as the 400,000 new cases per day that public health officials recorded during the biggest drop in case numbers in February 2021. But it’s close.
what is Yes, really What is remarkable, however, is how few of these half a million daily COVID infections are fatal. Most recently, just 1,700 people were dying every day – a fifth of the number of daily deaths in February last year, when the number of new daily infections was only slightly higher.
Hospital admissions for severe COVID cases are also declining. Global statistics are unavailable, but in the US, COVID hospitalizations have fallen to just 3,700 a day from 15,000 a day 19 months ago.
It’s not hard to explain the drop in deaths and hospital admissions. About two-thirds of adults worldwide are at least partially vaccinated. Billions of people also have antibodies from previous infections they have survived. Any antibody helps blunt the very worst of results.
“It is certainly valuable to save lives, but the quality of life is also very important.”
But Long COVID incidence appears to be ticking upwards. One reason could be the high reinfection rate. One in six people is currently infected more than once with the virus. Repeat infections are associated with an increased risk of a whole range of problems that don’t coincidentally coincide with the symptoms of a long COVID, according to a team of scientists from Washington University School of Medicine and the US Veterans Administration’s Saint Louis Health Care System in a study this summer . The more reinfections, the longer COVID.
Nash’s team analyzed the July numbers and concluded that 7 percent of all American adults — that’s more than 18 million people — had long-term COVID at the time. If the same rate holds true across the world – and there’s no reason to believe it doesn’t – the global caseload for long COVID could have surpassed 560 million this summer.
That figure is likely much higher now, given the summer surge in infections due to BA.5 – one million new cases worldwide in July.
One thing that surprised Nash and his teammates is that the risk of a long COVID is not uniform across the population. Young people and women are more likely to get long-term COVID, the CUNY team found. Nash said the higher vaccination rate among older adults and seniors may explain the former. But the latter remains a mystery. “Further study of these groups could provide evidence of risk factors,” he said.
Why there is a gender gap in long-term COVID risk is just an unanswered question that scientists and public health officials may be trying to answer. They could also come up with new vaccine strategies and public health messages specific to long COVID.
But by and large, they’re not doing much to address the risk of long-term symptoms, Nash said. Nearly three years into the COVID pandemic, authorities are still overwhelmingly focused on preventing hospitalizations and deaths — and only prevent hospital admissions and deaths.
“Focusing solely on these results could arguably exacerbate the situation with long COVID,” Nash explained, “since there is a significant amount of long COVID among people who have had only mild or less severe SARS-CoV-2 infections.”
In that sense, Long COVID is a silent crisis. One that potentially affects more than half a billion people but is not the focus of research or public health policy. “There’s certainly value in saving lives, but quality of life is also very important — and that can be lacking in people with long COVID,” University of Florida epidemiologist Cindy Prins told The Daily Beast.
We are of course not powerless to prevent long COVID. The same tools that can prevent hospitalization and death from COVID Also Reducing the likelihood of long-term symptoms—all by reducing the likelihood of any COVID, short or long. to be vaccinated. Keep up to date with your boosters. Mask yourself in crowded indoor spaces.
But given the trend in the development of SARS-CoV-2, long-COVID could become an ever-growing problem even among the most cautious of people — and a problem that calls for specific solutions. The virus is still mutating. And each new variant or sub-variant has tended to be more contagious than the last, meaning there are always more breakthrough infections among the fully vaccinated and boosted.
If you are currently up to date on your vaccinations, the chances of COVID killing you or putting you in the hospital are slim. But the likelihood that it will make you ill, possibly for a very long time, is significant – and appears to be increasing.