This is the first of a multi-part series on Long COVID. Part two can be read here.

After three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term consequences of infection with SARS CoV-2—called Long COVID or post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC)—remain a dire threat to humanity. Long COVID researchers and advocates have correctly referred to the pandemic as a “mass disabling event,” which is ongoing and deepening despite all the lies and propaganda that “the pandemic is over.”

The massive societal impacts of the pandemic are analogous to an iceberg, in which the acute mortality and suffering present on the surface are accompanied by the often hidden but even more numerically immense long-term toll exacted by Long COVID.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) shows that 671 million people have officially been infected with SARS-CoV-2 worldwide, resulting in 6.73 million deaths. Both figures are known to be vast undercounts due to inadequate testing and data tracking systems in most countries. Studies indicate that the majority of humanity has now been infected with COVID-19 and there are over 20 million excess deaths attributable to the pandemic.

An important recent scientific review, “Long COVID: major findings, mechanisms and recommendations” provided a conservative estimate that beyond these acute deaths, a staggering 65 million people are now suffering from Long COVID worldwide. The widely read paper, published in Nature Reviews Microbiology in January, was co-authored by Eric Jeffrey Topol and Julia Moore Vogel of The Scripps Research Institute, as well as Long COVID patient-researchers Hannah E. Davis and Lisa McCorkell.

Eric Topol [Photo by Juhan Sonin / CC BY 4.0]

The researchers present a series of devastating statistics that highlight the criminality of what is being unleashed on society by the ruling elites. They note:

At least 65 million individuals around the world have long COVID… the number is likely much higher due to many undocumented cases. The incidence is estimated at 10–30% of non-hospitalized cases, 50–70% of hospitalized cases and 10–12% of vaccinated cases. Long COVID is associated with all ages and acute phase disease severities.

The characteristics of Long COVID still remain elusive due in part to its being associated with over 200 symptoms ranging from inconvenient to debilitating. The most common symptoms include extreme fatigue, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, pain when breathing, painful muscles, heavy arms or legs, ageusia (loss of sense of taste) or anosmia (loss of sense of smell), feeling hot and cold alternately, and tingling extremities.

The Topol et al. review cites studies demonstrating that COVID-19 can attack and cause lasting damage to every organ system of the body, in particular the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological, endocrine, respiratory, and genitourinary systems.

Some of the most prevalent symptoms of Long COVID [Photo: WSWS]

Significantly, COVID-19 can cause cardiovascular, thrombotic (clots) and cerebrovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and dysautonomia (dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system that regulates the body’s internal environment), especially postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) associated with increased heart rate when standing.

The authors conclude that these symptoms can persist for a few weeks, to years, to potentially an entire lifetime, often making it impossible for sufferers to lead a normal life. The review states, “With significant proportions of individuals with long COVID unable to return to work, the scale of newly disabled individuals is contributing to labour shortages. There are currently no validated effective treatments.”

The immense social and medical impacts of Long COVID are the product of the homicidal “let it rip” mass infection policies that have now been implemented by every capitalist government throughout the world. The suppression and distortion of the science of Long COVID—which from the very first wave of coronavirus was known to be a devastating affliction—amount to one of the greatest crimes committed by capitalist politicians and the corporate media throughout the pandemic.

It is clear that Long COVID has accompanied each successive wave of the pandemic, and that it will continue to debilitate a significant portion of society for years to come. This review, as part of the World Socialist Web Site’s Global Workers’ Inquest into the COVID-19 Pandemic, will document what is known about the science and impacts of Long COVID, the lessons that should have been drawn from previous post-viral illnesses, and the refusal of world capitalism to address this massive and ongoing social catastrophe.

Identification of Long COVID

Long COVID as a condition was first identified by patients themselves, who were unable to obtain any meaningful treatment. The people who reported Long COVID symptoms during the first wave in 2020 were routinely dismissed as having a psychosomatic condition and ignored. This was in spite of Long COVID being totally predictable, as it is well known that viral and bacterial infections have long-term consequences that can emerge even decades after the initial infection.

A comment published in Social Science & Medicine in October 2020, written by professor of Human Geography at the University of Glasgow, Felicity Callard, and Honorary Research Associate at University College London, Elisa Perego, stated, “Thousands of patients collectively made visible heterogeneous and complexly unfolding symptoms: most were not commonly acknowledged within many healthcare and policy channels in early pandemic months.”

Loading Tweet ...

The authors argue that social media played an important role in uniting the growing cohort of patients internationally, enabling them to gain recognition for their condition. “There are strong reasons to argue that Long Covid is the first illness to be made through patients finding one another on Twitter and other social media,” they stated.

Importantly, Callard and Perego challenged the myth that COVID-19 is a mild condition as even in the early stages of the pandemic patients were reporting persistent severe symptoms.

In an online post published in May 2020, Callard took up Britain’s Home Officer Deputy Science Advisor Rupert Shute’s assessment of COVID-19 as “mild.” She wrote, “I have found myself chafing as a patient against the descriptor mild. The adjective can end up both revealing and hiding various logics at a moment in which thousands continue to die every day, world-wide, of a new and brutal disease.”

Perego recently spoke to the World Socialist Web Site. She is a principled scientist calling for the global elimination of COVID-19.

Long COVID advocate, immunologist and professor of immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine, Akiko Iwasaki, related in an online forum last August in Knowable MagazineLong COVID: A parallel pandemic” that in the early phase of the pandemic she investigated acute COVID-19, but that she frequently encountered people with persistent symptoms. She said:

We didn’t anticipate so many people becoming ill with long-term consequences. Hospitalized patients who are discharged may have 50 percent of those having long-term symptoms. Whereas a mild Covid or asymptomatic ones may lead to much less prevalence but still in the 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent range. So that’s a lot of people.

How many people have Long COVID?

Most of the people who get Long COVID have been relatively healthy and aged between 30-50 years old, often experiencing mild or no symptoms at all when they became infected. Estimates of the number of people with the condition vary greatly, as there is not a universally accepted definition for Long COVID. Last year, Nature commented, “So far, there is no agreement on how to define and diagnose long COVID.”

Source link