Researchers at Johns Hopkins have identified several ways in which the virus attacks our brains to produce neurological symptoms. Viral material can reach the brain through the circulatory system and even through the spinal cord. A hyper-reaction of the immune system can cause nerve damage. Oxygen shortage can affect the brain; blood clots can make strokes. Also, delirium can be caused by “chaos in the body from all the various biological changes and symptoms.”
There are well-known psychological repercussions that follow serious illnesses and lengthy ICU stays. Anyone who has been through such an ordeal can benefit from therapy. But with certain patients, something else is going on. Their recovery is described as glacially slow. Often, progress is illusory, with a “three steps forward, two steps back” quality. Eventually, it is no longer a difficult recovery, but a chronic condition.
An earlier post left off quoting a patient who said, “You start to think you’re losing your grip or maybe it’s all in your head.” For a while there, a lot of medical professionals and others were brushing off these lingering effects, classifying them as hypochondriasis, anxiety, or other emotional baggage. But realization has begun to dawn, that seeming anomalies might be part of a bigger picture. Increasingly, authorities acknowledge that the disease is not binary. Alive or dead are not the only possible outcomes.
It’s written up and named
Institutions are starting to catch on, like the University of Washington, where researchers characterize SARS-CoV-2 as “tricky” because while some people never even know they are infected, others are serious enough to be hospitalized, and for a certain number, it is fatal. And then, there are the unremittingly stubborn cases.
The experts followed up on 177 coronavirus patients for as long as nine months, including 150 with “mild” cases, who were not hospitalized. Almost one-third reported persistent symptoms. Dr. Sanjay Gupta writes,
A growing group of people get sick and then never fully recover. In support groups, they sometimes refer to themselves as long-haulers; their condition is alternately called long Covid, continued Covid, post-Covid syndrome or post-acute Covid syndrome.
NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci recently announced that the official name is now PASC, which stands for Post Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2. Technical writer Thomas Smith speaks of those who suffer a long-term illness, or die from complications, who are not included in the body count:
Morbidity […] includes the complications, health issues, and other negative outcomes (other than death) that a disease causes. Basically, it’s all the ways that a disease can make you unwell, even if it doesn’t actually kill you.
[O]fficial statistics miss quite a lot. Specifically, they fail to represent Covid-19 morbidity — the harm that the disease causes, even in people that it doesn’t kill. In terms of measuring the long-term impact of the disease — and accurately evaluating risk — that’s a big problem.
(To be continued…)
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Source: “How the Coronavirus May Attack the Brain,” Coronavirus.medium.com, 07/08/20
Source: “Almost a third of people with ‘mild’ Covid-19 still battle symptoms months later, study finds,” CNN.com, 02/19/21
Source: “Official Covid-19 Statistics Are Missing Something Critical,” Medium.com, 07/09/20
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