Scientists are curious, but there is more to it than just an inquisitive nature. Part of the skill is in knowing what to be curious about. Another part is the ability to sense when a vague anomaly is worth investigating. In the beginning, COVID-19 was believed to have an acute period of two weeks. A year ago, for The Atlantic, Meghan O’Rourke wrote a comprehensive article called “Unlocking the Mysteries of Long COVID.” It included this definition:
Acute COVID-19 refers to the distinct period of infection during which the immune system fights off the virus; the acute phase can range from mild to severe.
At Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, Zijian Chen, an endocrinologist, had been appointed medical director of the hospital’s new Center for Post-COVID Care. The facility was dedicated both to research and to helping recovering patients “transition from hospital to home.” So Dr. Chen was soaking up information, maybe not expecting to stumble upon anything monumental, just looking at details and piecing odd facts together.
He encountered an online survey whose database included 1,800 patients or thereabouts. It seems as if any number would be impressive, because among the long-haul symptoms are fatigue and brain fog. In those states, it is sometimes difficult to accomplish the most basic maintenance activities, much less journal about the sickness.
Such patients also cope with chest pain, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath, but the after-effects can also be much worse. Dr. Chen was puzzled to find, again and again, references to patients who were more than a month past their initial infection but still experiencing symptoms:
We expect that with viral infections as a whole, with few exceptions, you get better… Many patients were, for unknown reasons, not recovering… [M]ost had had mild cases of COVID-19 — they had neither been hospitalized nor developed pneumonia. Before contracting the virus, many had had no known health issues. Yet they were reporting significant ongoing symptoms.
Chen quickly convened a multidisciplinary group of clinicians to do research in the area of post-COVID care, and since then, knowledge has grown enormously. For instance, Childhood Obesity News has mentioned writer Eleanor Cummins, who has also told the public about the Body Politic COVID-19 support group.
Board Member Hannah Davis, who had the virus along with her children, described this as the place where she had “encountered hundreds of other people describing stranger symptoms and longer recovery times than anyone anticipated.” They need the rest of the world to understand what is going on, because many COVID survivors…
[…] have reported feeling dismissed or gaslit by their doctors for unusual symptoms. They’ve also received skepticism from loved ones, who have dismissed their pain as attention-seeking or the result of an overactive imagination.
Davis knows about such subjects as computational linguistics. Her background is in machine learning and data analysis with a special interest in “tools for countering bias in machine learning datasets.” What Survivor Corps wants to do, is “work directly with a research institution and a biotech company on a long-term study of Covid-19 patients’ outcomes.”
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Unlocking the Mysteries of Long COVID,” TheAtlantic.com, 03/08/21
Source: “Guidelines Say Covid-19 Symptoms Last Two Weeks. Survivors Know Better.,” Medium.com, 05/20/20
Source: “Meet the Team,” WeareBodyPolitic.com, undated
Images by Alastair Gilfillan and hobvias sudoneighm/CC BY 2.0