Infection preventionists and other health care professionals once again on the frontlines battling a COVID-19 surge need be wary of “mild” symptoms that could haunt them in the long run.
Sometimes lost among the evidence that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 might be a way to, ironically, end the pandemic–mild symptoms and high infectivity might get us to herd immunity—is this question: What about long COVID? That’s especially pertinent to infection preventionists (IPs) and other health care professionals who find themselves yet again on the frontlines of another surge.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), long COVID “is a range of symptoms that can last weeks or months after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 or can appear weeks after infection. Long COVID can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if their illness was mild, or if they had no symptoms.”
Linda Spaulding, RN-BC, CIC, CHEC, CHOP, a member of Infection Control Today®’s Editorial Advisory Board (EAB), says that she’s “seen athletes in their 20s on the wait list for double lung transplants because of long COVID. That’s something that has long-term consequences. Some people talk of COVID fog. They just can’t put their thoughts together.”
In addition, even the treatments for those with long COVID can put toll on a patient’s body.
IPs and other health care workers on the frontlines are also in danger of contracting long COVID. “If health care workers have to give up their careers, then what comes next?,” says Spaulding, adding that the financial consequences of long COVID on the health care system could last “forever.”
A preprint study by Oxford University investigators on the medRxiv website, compares brain scans for SARS-CoV-2 infections in 394 COVID-19 patients who tested positive for the infection against 388 patients in a control group. “We identified significant effects of COVID-19 in the brain with a loss of grey matter in the left parahippocampal gyrus, the left lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the left insula,” the study states. “When looking over the entire cortical surface, these results extended to the anterior cingulate cortex, supramarginal gyrus and temporal pole.”
As noted by Kevin Kavanagh, MD, another member of ICT®’s EAB, a core difficulty in society’s attempt to guide COVID-19 from pandemic to endemic is that COVID is not just a respiratory virus. Kavanagh wrote in October that SARS-CoV-2 is similar to HIV because it can “silently spread throughout the host’s body and attack almost every organ.”
IPs and other health care workers are not immune to long COVID, but they are not always believed when they complain of symptoms, as reported in the Atlantic in November. The author writes that he “interviewed more than a dozen … health professionals from the United States and the United Kingdom who have long COVID. Most told me that they were shocked at how quickly they had been dismissed by their peers.”
Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH, an infectious disease expert and a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, has been saying throughout the pandemic…
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