Cover The term “long COVID” is commonly used to describe signs and symptoms that continue or develop after acute COVID-19. (Photo: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash)

If you've ever contracted COVID-19, then this WHO finding is relevant to you: symptoms such as persistent fatigue, breathlessness, and brain fog can last in your system weeks after your battle with the disease

Just when you thought COVID-19 can't get any worse, you hear about the term "long COVID". For starters, this phenomenon occurs when a person experiences long-term health problems even after recovering from the original infection.

The health concerns in question include fatigue or extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, frequent chest pains, problems with concentration ("brain fog"), loss of taste and smell, and joint pains. 

As of this writing, long COVID is a clinical case that still baffles scientists and medical experts. The length and severity of this health problem remain undiscovered up until today. "Post COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, usually occurring three months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms and lasting for at least two months, that cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis," the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in one of its journals

"Symptoms may be a new onset following initial recovery from an acute COVID-19 episode or persist from the initial illness," it added.

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The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, reported that in UK, there had been 945,000 people who reported having long COVID last July 4,2021, among these numbers, at least 34,000 are children aged two to 16. The health issue was also observed among people aged 35 to 69.

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Call to Action

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director-general, has called on countries to prioritise recognition, rehabilitation, and research for the long-term consequences of COVID-19, as well as a collection of data for long COVID. A cohesive research agenda is needed to prevent research waste and improve outcomes for patients.

The WHO representative added that medical communities must acknowledge this and collaborate "to meet individualised, patient-oriented goals, with an appropriately trained workforce involving physical, cognitive, social, and occupational elements."

Long COVID Linked to Psychiatric Symptoms 

Depression, anxiety, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptoms, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been linked to long COVID. Studies show that prescriptions of antidepressants, intimate partner violence, and suicidal thoughts have gone up at the onset of the pandemic.

Paul J. Harrison, MA, BM. BCh, DM (Oxon), FRCPsych, an independent investigator at the University of Oxford revealed that the single most frequently reported symptom of long COVID were anxiety and depression (23 per cent within six months of COVID and 15 per cent in months three to six after diagnosis). 

"Anxiety and depression were higher in patients with more severe COVID cases, and slightly higher among females. White and non-White patients were equally affected," quoted his study. 

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Which Strain Causes 'Long COVID'?

In an interview, U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci disclosed that long COVID was a possibility regardless of the variant. “Long COVID can happen no matter what virus variant occurs. There’s no evidence that there’s any difference between Delta or Beta or now Omicron,” he told the press. “There's no evidence that there's any difference between delta or beta or now omicron [so] we should always be aware that when people get symptomatic infection, anywhere from 10 to up to 30 plus per cent of people will go on to have persistence of symptoms."

How to Dodge the Feared Long-Term Effects of COVID

According to research conducted by the King's College, London, people who received at least two jabs of any COVID-19 vaccine are less likely to develop long-term sickness. The analysis was based on data from a ZOE COVID app between December 8, 2020 and July 4, 2021. 

"We found that the odds of having symptoms for 28 days or more after post-vaccination infection were approximately halved by having two vaccine doses. This result suggests that the risk of long COVID is reduced in individuals who have received double vaccination, when additionally considering the already documented reduced risk of infection overall," the data suggested. 

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