The latest COVID-19 surge, due to a shifting mix of rapidly evolving Omicron subvariants, seems to be decliningWith the onset of cases and hospitalization.
Like previous COVID waves, this will leave a long mark in the form of long COVID, a mis-defined catchall term for a set of symptoms that can include debilitating fatigue, difficulty breathing, chest pain and brain fog. .
Although there are omicron infections to lighten up Overall, Omicron has also proven capable of triggering long-term symptoms and organ damage, similar to those caused by last summer’s Delta version. But whether Omicron causes long-term COVID symptoms – and as severe – as previous variants is the subject of a hot study.
Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, is among researchers who say a far higher number of omicron infections than the earlier variants need to be prepared to make up for the significant increase in people with long covid. indicate. The US has recorded nearly 38 million Covid infections so far this year, as Omicron blankets the nation. According to the U.S., about 40% of all infections reported since the start of the pandemic Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Research Center.
Akiko Iwasaki, professor of immunobiology at Yale University, said “Long Covid” is a parallel epidemic that most people are not even thinking about. “I suspect there will be millions of people who get COVID long after an Omicron infection.”
Scientists have begun to compare the variants head-to-head, with varying results. whereas a recent study The Lancet suggests Omicron is less likely to have long-term COVID, another finds same rate of neurological problems After the Omicron and Delta transitions.
Estimates of the proportion of patients affected by prolonged covid also vary. 4% to 5% in triple-vaccinated adults To Up to 50% of the illiterate, based on differences in the population studied. One reason for that wide range is that long-term covid has been defined in widely different ways in different studies, from self-reported numbness to pulse and blood pressure for a few months after infection. Dangerously disabling inability to control which may have occurred over the years.
Even at the low end of those projections, this year will see an enormous number of long-Covid caseloads of Omron infections. “That’s what we found in the UK,” said Claire Steves, professor of aging and health at King’s College in London. author of the Lancet study, which found that patients were 24% to 50% less likely to develop long-term covid during the omicron wave as compared to the delta wave. “Even though the risk of a long COVID is low, because so many people have caught Omicron, the absolute number with a longer COVID has gone up,” Steves said.
a recent study An analysis of a Veterans Health Administration patient database found that reinfection dramatically increased the risk of serious health problems, even in people with mild symptoms. The study of more than 5.4 million VA patients, including more than 560,000 women, found that people infected with COVID were twice as likely to die or have a heart attack as those infected only once. And they were more likely to experience all kinds of health problems by six months later, including problems with their lungs, kidneys, and digestive system.
“We are not saying that the second infection is going to get worse; We’re saying it increases your risk,” said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, chief of research and education service at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System.
Researchers say the study, published online but not yet peer-reviewed, should be interpreted with caution. Some noted that VA patients have unique characteristics, and are older men with higher rates of chronic conditions that increase the risk of long-term covid. He cautioned that the study’s findings cannot be extrapolated to the general population, which is overall younger and healthier.
“We need to validate these findings with other studies,” said director of the Yale New Haven Hospital Center for Outcome Research and Evaluation, Dr. Harlan Krumholz said. Still, he said, the VA study has some “troubling implications.”
with a guess 82% American After having been infected with the coronavirus at least once by mid-July, most new cases are now re-infections, said Justin Lesler, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health.
Of course, people’s risk of re-infection depends not only on their immune system, but also on the precautions they take, such as wearing a mask, getting a booster shot, and avoiding crowds.
New Jersey salon owner T Hundley, 43, has had COVID three times, three times before the vaccine became widely available and again this summer, three times after being fully vaccinated. She is still bearing the brunt of this.
After her second infection, she returned to work as a cosmetologist at her Jersey City salon, but struggled with illness and shortness of breath for the next eight months, often feeling like she was “breathing through a straw.” Is.”
She was exhausted, and was sometimes slow to find her words. When waxing one client’s eyebrows, “I would literally forget which eyebrow I was waxing,” Hundley said. “My mind was very slow.”
When she had a successful infection in July, her symptoms were short-lived and mild: cough, runny nose, and fatigue. But the tightness in his chest persists.
“I feel like this is something that will always be avoided,” said Hundley, who warns friends with Covid not to overexert. “You may not feel terrible, but there is a war going on inside your body.”
Although each omicron subvariant has different mutations, they are so similar that people infected with one, such as BA.2, have relatively good protection against newer versions of omicron, such as BA.5. People with an earlier variant are more susceptible to BA.
several studies found that Vaccinations reduce the risk Long covid. But the measure of that protection varies by study, which is at least a . happens from 15% reduction more at risk 50% reduction, a study People published in July found a reduction in the risk of covid over a long period of time with each dose they received.
For now, the only sure way to prevent covid in the long run is to avoid getting sick. This is no easy task as the virus mutates and Americans have largely stopped wearing masks in public places. Current vaccines are very good at preventing serious disease but do not prevent the virus from passing from person to person. Scientists are working on the next generation of vaccines — “variant-proof” shots that will work on any version of the virus, as well as nasal sprays that can actually stop the spread. If they are successful, it could dramatically curb new cases of Covid in the long run.
“We need vaccines that reduce transmission,” Al-Aly said. “We need them tomorrow.”
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that conducts in-depth journalism about health issues. Along with policy analysis and polling, KHN is one of three major operational programs. kff (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a thriving non-profit organization that provides information on health issues to the nation.
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