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‘The next public health disaster in the making’: Studies offer new pieces of long Covid puzzle


There is no test for long Covid. There is no specific medicine to take or exercises to do to relieve its symptoms. There’s no consensus on how long Covid symptoms last, and some doctors even doubt it’s real. Still, with large numbers of people having had Covid-19 and estimates ranging from 7.7 million to 23 million long-term Covid patients in the US alone, researchers say it has the potential to to be “the next public health disaster in the making”.

The Biden administration released two reports this week to launch a whole-of-government effort to prevent, detect and treat long Covid. Two new studies are also trying to piece together some of the small pieces of the puzzle that has long been Covid.

President Joe Biden said in April that long Covid was a priority for his administration and commissioned two reports: one that outlines a research agenda for the country and one that outlines federally funded services and support available for people in the United States with long Covid. A total of 14 government departments and agencies worked together to create these new Covid long shots.

“A national, coordinated, and action-oriented approach across the U.S. government is urgently needed,” the report said.

The plan proposes a new long Covid office within the Department of Health and Human Services, but it does not offer details on how to fund or staff the office.

The plan also calls for new federal investments and calls on the private sector to do more. It builds on existing government research with the aim of accelerating and expanding it.

“These initial reports are an important step as HHS continues to accelerate research and programmatic support to address the impacts of the pandemic and work across sectors to ensure no one is left behind as we continue to build a healthier future,” HHS says.

As of last week, more than 14 million children in the United States have tested positive for Covid-19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. But it’s unclear how many have had Covid for a long time.

A study published in July estimated that fewer children have it than adults: 5 to 10% of children who have had the Covid. Other researchers think the number is much higher: around 26% of children who have had Covid.

Children usually show some of the same symptoms of long Covid as adults – including breathing problems, changes in taste and smell, brain fog, anxiety, depression, fatigue and mental disorders. sleep – but they can also have serious problems that involve their organs.

A new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that children who have had Covid for a long time have a much higher risk of serious lung, heart, kidney and pancreatic problems than children who have not caught the virus.

For the purposes of their study, the CDC researchers define long Covid as involving symptoms four weeks or more after a diagnosis of Covid-19.

They used a large database of medical claims to search for 15 long Covid conditions among 781,419 children and adolescents who had a confirmed case of Covid-19.

The study, published Thursday, found that children with long-lasting Covid had higher rates of acute pulmonary embolism or obstruction in the lungs which can cause sudden shortness of breath, anxiety, chest pain, palpitations and dizziness.

They also had a higher rate of potentially serious heart conditions like myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that can cause a fast or irregular heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue and body aches. They had a higher rate of cardiomyopathy, a condition that makes it difficult for heart muscle to pump blood to the body and, in extreme cases, can lead to heart failure.

Children with long-term Covid also had a higher risk of kidney failure and were more likely to develop type 1 diabetes.

All of these conditions are rare or uncommon in this age group, according to the CDC.

At the start of the pandemic, people thought that Covid-19 was not so bad for children. Unlike other respiratory viruses, children often have less severe symptoms than adults, according to some studies, but this is not always the case.

Dr. Amy Edwards, associate medical director of pediatric infection control at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, said she’s seen children with more severe symptoms like myocarditis and cardiomyopathy, as well as problems of blood clotting.

“It’s nice to see evidence here that children have long Covid symptoms,” said Edwards, who was not involved in the study.

Edwards would have liked researchers to distinguish between long Covid and MIS-C, a rare but serious condition that can also follow a case of Covid-19 and cause similar symptoms in the same time window. But any study that raises awareness of long Covid can help, she said.

Several patients came to see her after other doctors dismissed the severity of their symptoms, she said. And she worries about children whose carers don’t know how to get further help from a doctor or Covid clinic for their children. they might need to improve.

“It’s the children who keep me awake at night. I worry about these kids,” Edwards said.

The CDC researchers say they hope their study will encourage caregivers to get children vaccinated and monitor for these serious symptoms and conditions in children who contract Covid-19.

“Covid-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination of all eligible children and adolescents, are essential to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and related illnesses, including symptoms and conditions post-Covid,” the study said.

Another new long-running Covid study finds that 1 in 8 adults with Covid-19 may experience symptoms months after initial infection.

The study, published in the journal The Lancet on Thursday, found that 12.7% of people with Covid-19 had new or severely increased symptoms at least three months after their initial diagnosis, a lower percentage than some other research. didn’t suggest it.

The researchers interviewed 4,231 people who had Covid and 8,462 who did not. They checked the participants 24 times between March 2020 and August 2021 and compared the two groups.

The researchers asked about 23 symptoms, and fatigue and shortness of breath were the most common. Many people have also reported chest pain.

Limitations of the study include the fact that it was conducted in the Netherlands and does not include an ethnically diverse population. Most of the data was collected before vaccines became available, and some studies suggest vaccination can help protect against long Covid.

The research was also conducted before the dominance of the Omicron coronavirus variant, so it is unclear whether the results would be the same in people infected with later strains.

Researchers say scientists need to do more to figure out how long Covid lasts and how many people get it, as well as how to treat or even prevent it.

“Research has been hampered by the lack of consensus on the prevalence and nature of the post-Covid-19 condition,” the study says.

“There is an urgent need for empirical data that informs the scale and scope of the problem to support the development of an adequate healthcare response.”


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