Just as we continue to learn about acute Covid-19 infections on a daily basis, we are also learning about the condition most commonly known as ‘long Covid’. Also referred to as “Long-term Covid”, “chronic Covid” and “post-acute Covid-19”, it was first identified in the months following the first wave of the pandemic. Some individuals suffering from acute Covid-19 infections as early as March 2020 had persistent problems with fatigue, memory problems, “brain fog”, difficulty breathing and altered sense of smell or taste for weeks or months after infection. Some of these people, now more than two years after recovering from their illness, are still living with the effects of long-term Covid.
Long Covid is now considered a disability under the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act. If symptoms related to long-term Covid affect a person’s day-to-day activities, they are entitled to “the same protections from discrimination as any other person with disabilities under the ADA,” according to the Department of Health’s Office for Civil Rights and Human Services. †
Just as different variants have been met different symptoms and the risk of serious illness, we are gradually gaining insight into the risk of long-term Covid based on the variants we have seen so far. A study published in the June 18, 2022 issue of the lancet assessed the likelihood of developing long-term Covid after infection with the delta SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) variant versus the ommicron variant. The work, which took place in the UK and was supported by the UK Department of Health, used self-reporting of post-Covid-19 symptoms in those who developed Covid-19 infections during the ommicron wave, between December 2021 and March 2022. , compared to those who developed acute infections during the delta wave between June 2021 and November 2021.
Long Covid is defined in this and other studies and reports as having “new or persistent symptoms 4 weeks or more after the onset of acute COVID-19”. All subjects in the study were vaccinated against Covid-19 and the mean age of the subjects was 53 years. Just over 56,000 were enrolled after omicn infections and just over 41,000 were enrolled after delta infections. The variants were assumed to be ommicron or delta based on the timing of infection correlated with the most common variant at any given time period.
Of the subjects with ommicron, 4.5% described long-lasting Covid symptoms, compared to 10.8% in the delta variant group. The time of previous vaccination did not affect these differences.
As we remain submerged in the ommicron wave, now with sub-variants continuing to plague much of the world, it is likely that Covid will become more common in the long run. While the overall percentage risk of long-term Covid with omicron is lower than at previous peaks, the high absolute number of people suffering from ommicron infections will quickly translate into an absolute higher number of people suffering from long-term Covid in the coming months and even years. .
The number of ommicron-infected people has already surpassed the number of infected by all previous variants. And while many experience milder illness, many others experience severe illness, and many will unfortunately develop Covid for a long time.
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