LOS ANGELES– Because so many people have faced COVID-19 infections, many now treat the virus like a cold or the flu.
New research suggests that’s far from the truth. As COVID concerns wane, a parallel pandemic is emerging.
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“We are still learning about the long-term health effects of COVID infections,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
Dr. Michael Ghobrial of the Cleveland Clinic said they see it more often in younger patients.
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It comes as doctors across the country are treating a growing number of patients who can’t get rid of their early COVID symptoms or who have acquired new symptoms that last at least a month or more. Some cases have been going on for two years.
“The most described symptoms of long COVID include fatigue, reduced exercise capacity, respiratory problems, brain fog, and loss of taste or smell,” Ferrer said.
Various studies reveal that long COVID, or long haul syndrome, can strike all populations.
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“It’s more in women than in men. It’s also more common in patients who have comorbidities,” Ghobrial said.
In a study of several thousand veterans, Ferrer said new evidence suggests that repeated COVID infections increase the risk of long-distance syndrome.
“Many of these disorders were serious and life-changing and included strokes, cognitive and memory impairment, peripheral nervous system disorders,” she said. “The risk of having long-term health problems was three times higher for those infected three times compared to those who were not infected.”
Avoiding infection is key, and while COVID vaccines and boosters don’t always prevent infection, many studies show it can reduce the risk of long-lasting COVID.
“Those who received two doses of vaccine before getting COVID had about a 75% lower chance of getting long COVID,” Ferrer said. “Whereas those who received three doses had an 84% lower chance of getting long COVID.”
Although we have a lot to learn, Ferrer said getting vaccinated and boosted seems to be one of the easiest ways to significantly lower your risk.
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