As the pandemic lumbers onward, we’re hearing more about long Covid–the debilitating long-term effects that some people experience after the disease has passed. Here’s what I’ve been able to scrape together:
No one who catches the virus knows what card they’ll pull out of the Covid deck. Some people have no symptoms, some people get sick and recover, and some people die. As far as most discussions are concerned, that’s it. Cards distributed. Can we play something else, please?
Well, no, we can’t, because that middle group isn’t done drawing cards. Some of them recover fully, regardless of whether they had serious cases or mild ones, and some–even people who had mild cases–don’t go back to being the people they were before they got sick. And that includes young adults, the people we thought had a get-out-of-jail-free card for this disease.
The symptoms of long Covid range all over the place. They can include exhaustion, brain fog, memory problems, breathlessness, depression, hair loss, concentration problems, loss of the senses of taste and smell, joint pain, muscle aches, chest pain, chills, sweats, digestive issues, coughs. Trouble going upstairs and trouble walking to the end of the street (the road, the lane, the whatever) get mentioned a lot. Fatigue sounds like the most common symptom.
Some people slowly get better and move on. Some improve a bit and slip back a bit and improve again and slip back again. Some seem to be stuck at the bottom. And it goes on for months.
Does it get better? We don’t know yet.
The Covid Symptom Study app–that’s not the official British test and trace app but it’s been downloaded by 3 million people and one cockatoo–says one person in twenty has long-term symptoms. Another app, this one in Scotland and Wales, comes up with one in ten having symptoms for longer than three weeks, some of them for months.
An article in the BMJ quotes Tim Spector, of the Covid Symptom Study, saying that if your version of Covid includes “a persistent cough, hoarse voice, headache, diarrhoea, skipping meals, and shortness of breath in the first week, you are two to three times more likely to get longer term symptoms.”
Long Covid seems to be about twice as common in women as in men.
Or in one Paris hospital, four times more common. The same hospital said the average age of the long-haulers they saw was forty.
I know. The numbers are all over the place. These are early reports, a lot of them involving a small number of cases. They’re not carefully designed studies. It’s too early for that.
Another study said a third of patients who had mild symptoms hadn’t gotten back to their pre-Covid health after two to three weeks. The older the patient, the more likely that was, but a quarter of the people between eighteen and thirty-four hadn’t bounced back.
Many long-haulers report that many doctors don’t take them or their symptoms seriously–especially if they’re women. And gee, no, we wouldn’t want to draw any overarching conclusions from that either.
Meanwhile, back at the Journal of the American Medical Association, a study reports that older people are underrepresented in trials of both Covid vaccines and treatments.
Why’s that when they’re the most vulnerable to the disease? Because participation often depends on not having other diseases, or on having smart phones or internet access.
That causes a problem, because older patients may need higher or lower doses of a vaccine or a medicine. Get it wrong and a cure or vaccine can be either toxic or useless.
Dr. Sharon Inouye said, “To be sure, some exclusions are needed to protect the health and safety of older adults—such as poorly controlled comorbidities. However, many are not well-justified, and appear to be more for expediency or convenience of the trialists.”
Did you say something about overarching conclusions?
Okay, how much do masks, handwashing, and keeping a distance from people limit the spread of Covid? Considerably, according to a study in Thailand.
Wearing a mask all the time lowers the risk by 77%. Wearing it only part of the time you’re with someone does fuck-all. So that business about putting on a mask at a restaurant when you head for the toilets, then taking it off so you can sit back down and shovel food into your face? Useless.
Keeping a meter away from people reduces infection by 85% and keeping contact down to fifteen minutes or less reduced the risk by 76%. Frequent handwashing? That reduced it by 66%. Add those all together and Covid will end up owing us. Or doesn’t it work that way?
If you’re wondering whether they’re talking about reducing the risk of passing on the disease or of getting it, I wondered the same thing.
Researchers at Oxford University suggest that the best use of limited Covid testing resources would be to test people who are the most likely to pass on the disease–healthcare workers, transport workers, social care workers, delivery drivers, people who go to large gatherings, people in large cities–and to do it at regular intervals.
Random testing, they say, wastes resources.
Are we going to listen to them? Probably not. What do they know anyway?
An anti-Covid nasal spray that’s been tested ferrets looks promising. It interacts with cells in the nasal cavity, waking up the immune system, which then kicks in and–
Okay, let’s not pretend I understand this. I’ll quote: It “kicks in like a defence shield which is broad-sprectrum and non-specific.” So presumably it slaughters anything it finds that looks suspicious. It’s odd how a moderately nonviolent person like my own bad-tempered self turns bloodthirsty when we’re discussing the immune system.
It’s too early to know if it’ll translate to humans. Or cause us to grow a glossy fur coat.
“The hope is that it will reduce the duration and severity of the symptoms and if you reduce the number of viral particles in the nose, the hope is that it would reduce transmission – although they haven’t done those studies yet.”
Hang onto that word hope. We need as much of it as we can get these days.
Stay well, people. I don’t have so many readers that I can afford to lose any.