By Darryl Sellers
Most people recover from COVID-19 in two weeks. However, in the midst of the second summer of the pandemic, the United States is dealing with rise in cases of a potentially critical condition called Long COVID or COVID Long-Haulers. Many people in this group have not received a COVID-19 vaccine and are unprotected against the virus, as well as the more transmissible Delta variant that is sweeping across the nation, accounting for more than 83 percent of new COVID cases.
According to a new study by Fair Health, nearly 25 percent of COVID-19 patients have experienced new health problems after their diagnosis. This afflication has affected between 10 and 30 percent of people who get the virus and develop persistent long-term symptoms that can last more than one year after getting COVID-19. Long COVID ailments include brain fog, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and shortness of breath, among others.
While doctors continue to work diligently to uncover the unknowns about these chronic post-COVID-19 symptoms and why they happen, Fair Health, an independent nonprofit that collects data for and manages the nation’s largest database of privately billed health insurance claims, may help shed some light for doctors and Long COVID patients about this illness.
The Fair Health report is from post-COVID data collected March 2020 to February 2021 that is thought to be the largest study about COVID Long-Haulers to date. Fair Health followed almost 2 million patients with post-COVID conditions for at least 30 days. The study paid close attention to age, gender, mental health conditions, and death. According to the report, women were more than twice as likely as males to seek care for post-COVID adjustment disorders, anxiety, and depression. On the other hand, men with one or more COVID Long-Hauler conditions for 30 or more days after being diagnosed with COVID-19 were more likely to die.
The study’s findings revealed that pain was the top post-COVID condition, and breathing difficulties were the second-most common post-COVID symptom. Among the conclusions from the report, post-COVID conditions were found to a greater extent in patients who had more severe cases of COVID-19, but it was also discovered in a substantial share (19 percent) of patients whose cases were asymptomatic (showed no symptoms).
The White House is offering some support for COVID Long-Haulers. Recently, President Joe Biden said those who experience long-term health problems from COVID-19 could qualify for the American Disabilities Act that provides critical protection from discrimination.
Check out these stories from COVID Long-Haulers who had a long road to recovery but survived their symptoms and are now thriving. That is good news for people who are battling Long COVID.
While there’s no known cure for Long COVID, Dr. Michele Benoit-Wilson of WakeMed Health said monoclonal antibodies might be the antidote that could help patients at a higher risk for COVID-19 ward off long-lasting symptoms.
“It’s not something, that if you have a severe illness, that you want to wait for,” Dr. Benoit-Wilson said. “It’s really when you’re earlier on in the process, not even necessarily in the hostpital yet,” she added. “Talk to your healthcare provider about whether or not you’re a candidate for monoclonal antibodies, which has shown to not only save lives but decrease the severity of the illness,” she added. :We may not know yet what Long-Haul COVID would look like in someone who’s received monoclonal antibodies earlier on, but anything that helps prevent some of these long-lasting effects is going to be beneficial.”
Dr. Nerissa Price has a lot of experience working with Long COVID patients. Although there isn’t a cure for this condition, she said being empathetic with her patients is vital to their mental health. “More importantly, I think it’s just helpful to be validating to them; that this is not in their imagination,” Dr. Price said. “That it really does seem to be an underlying syndrome that we’re learning more and more about, to really help people kind of maintain that hope.”
The big takeaway during the resurgence of COVID-19 is that it’s even more imperative for more Black Americans to get vaccinated. All the approved vaccines (Prizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson) will protect you against severe disease and hospitalization. So please get vaccinated as soon as possible, follow the CDC’s new masking mandate, and practice precautions. It’s your best shot to stay healthy and help our country stop the COVID-19 surge this summer.
For more information about COVID Long-Haulers, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Medical Association’s Frequently Asked Questions.
Please visit the “We Can Do This” website to access all resources and toolkits for the COVID-19 Public Education Campaign.
Please click on the photo and find out why we should trust the vaccines.
Darryl Sellers is the Director of the Public Relations Team for Creative Marketing Resources, a strategic marketing agency in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.