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Scientists raise alarm about long Covid prevalence

According to a recent comprehensive study led by University of Glasgow based on the experiences of nearly 100,000 participants, many people do not fully recover months after being infected with SARS-CoV-2 – a debilitating condition known as “long Covid.” The experts found that between six and 18 months after infection, one in 20 people had not fully recovered, and a staggering 42 percent of the participants reported only partial recovery. However, people with asymptomatic infections, as well as vaccinated individuals, appear to suffer less long-term effects.

“It’s one more well-conducted, population-level study showing that we should be extremely concerned about the current numbers of acute infections,” said David Putrino, the director of rehabilitation innovation at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York. “We are in trouble.”

“There are lots of different impacts going beyond health to quality of life, employment, schooling and the ability to look after yourself,” added study senior author Jill Pell, a professor of Public Health at the University of Glasgow.

The wide range of reported symptoms – including breathlessness, fatigue, brain fog, chest pain, or palpitations – and the inability to provide a clear prognosis for people with this condition have long perplexed scientists, even as the dangers of this long Covid are became clearer, with between seven and 23 million Americans currently suffering from the long-term effects of battling the novel coronavirus. Unfortunately, as Covid-19 is turning into an endemic disease, these numbers are expected to rise dramatically.

Although symptoms of long Covid tend to be more severe among patients hospitalized during their acute stage of infection, milder or even asymptomatic cases are also at risk of developing this debilitating condition. “It has always been the case that those who are sicker are more likely to have long-term sequelae. What is frightening is that the mild cases by far outnumber the severe, so even a small percentage of mild cases going on to develop long-term sequelae is a massive public health concern,” Dr. Putrino warned.

The researchers also discovered that the risk of long Covid is higher among women, older individuals, those living in economically disadvantaged communities, or people who already suffered from various health issues, including respiratory disease or depression. Although vaccination appear to reduce the chance of developing long Covid, the protection vaccines offer against long-Covid is significantly lower than previously thought. The reasons for this need further investigation. “That is one of the most important things we need to understand next,” Dr. Putrino concluded.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

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By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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