Saturday, September 25, 2021
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We’re short on facts about Long Covid

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WHAT do the Prince of Wales, Lewis Hamilton, Mrs Matt Hancock and US news presenter Chris Cuomo have in common? They are all reportedly suffering from ‘Long Covid’. 

Prince Charles tested positive for Covid-19 in March last year. He told the BBC at the time that he ‘got away with it quite lightly’ but more recently he disclosed that he is still suffering from a loss of smell and taste

Racing driver Hamilton said he suspects Long Covid after he required medical attention following last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

Autosport.com reports that the seven-times world champion was visibly struggling after the 70-lap race and had to be assisted on to the podium; he seemed unable to summon the strength to hold up his champagne bottle.

Hamilton missed his post-race television interviews and arrived late to the press conference for the top three finishers. He said: ‘I haven’t spoken to anyone particularly about Long Covid, but I think it is lingering there.’

Martha Hancock, scorned wife of the disgraced ex-Health Secretary, is experiencing Long Covid symptoms. According to the Sunday Times she originally caught the virus from her errant husband after he tested positive in March 2020.

In the USA, CNN news anchor Chris Cuomo reported his battle with Covid throughout 2020 but confirms that he is still suffering. He said: ‘I’ve got ‘brain fog’ that won’t go away. I’ve got an onset of clinical depression, which is not sadness, but it is depression.’ 

The effect of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) varies dramatically between individuals, from asymptomatic infection through mild illness, to extreme respiratory dysfunction, multi-organ failure and death. 

Early in the pandemic, it appeared that most of those infected had mild-to-moderate symptoms and the majority recovered within two to three weeks, depending on the severity of their illness. 

Now there are reports of increasing numbers complaining of persisting health complications, such as chronic fatigue, diffuse myalgia, depression, pain and poor sleep. Others report chest pain and palpitations, shortness of breath, muscle and joint aches, headaches, skin problems, cognitive impairment and general weakness.  

That a post-viral syndrome might manifest following Covid-19 should come as no surprise to clinicians as similar outcomes follow other viral infections. In 2002/3, after the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), also a coronavirus, a number of people went on to develop a chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME)-like illness. 

A recent study in the Lancet-owned journal EClinicalMedicine purported to document more than 200 individual symptoms of Long Covid, ranging from fatigue, cough and long-term loss of sense of smell to hallucination, tearfulness, insomnia and general anxiety.

Media reports in the UK and the US used the research to press for funding for Long Covid research. The pleadings worked, with the US National Institutes for Health (NIH) recently allocating more than $1billion in funding after its director Francis Collins made Long Covid ‘a priority’. The Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed it intends to classify Long Covid as a disability.

Matt Hancock, when still Health Secretary, said he was ‘acutely aware’ of the seriousness of Long Covid, and late last year NHS England announced funding for 69 multidisciplinary Long Covid clinics: they will bring together specialist medics, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.  

Long Covid provides further justification for the Covid authoritarians to continue to promote their draconian non-pharmaceutical interventions including the use of masks, social distancing and lockdowns. It has also been used to prop up calls for enforced mass vaccination – even of children and babies – to push ‘booster Covid jabs’ and deliver vaccine passports. After all, ‘no one is safe until we all are’. 

The website Anti-Virus: The Covid-19 FAQ, set up by ‘neoliberal’ activist Sam Bowman, director of competition policy at the US-based International Center for Law and Economics and Neil O’Brien, former Treasury aide and now ‘Conservative’ MP for Harborough, described by Politico as the ‘Covid attack dog’, has used the threat of Long Covid to attack the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), arguing that the syndrome undermines evidence that the virus is substantially less severe among younger people. 

Several pro-lockdown scientists and epidemiologists issued coordinated statements attacking the GBD for ‘ignoring the emerging burdens of Long Covid’. Their statements offered no debate as to the validity of the syndrome but treated it as an established medical fact. 

Long Covid is, however, not entirely straightforward from a diagnostic perspective: its reported symptoms are highly variable and there is no test yet to identify cases. It is arguably a social media phenomenon, with sufferers finding each other on the internet through ‘support forums’ and patient advocacy groups; there is even talk of a political party.  

Often Long Covid sufferers are self-diagnosed, having never even been tested for coronavirus. Their ‘lived experience’ is, like other examples of contemporary social dogma, to be accepted as fact.  

Those convinced that they have Long Covid report being dismissed by healthcare professionals and receiving little or no support to manage their condition. In that, they join the 12million patients languishing on UK ‘National Health’ waiting lists and the millions of others yet to be diagnosed. 

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Kate Dunlop
Kate Dunlop is a mediator.

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