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The Future of Long COVID

The Atlantic – This emergency is not about to end. By Katherine J. Wu – “In the early spring of 2020, the condition we now call long COVID didn’t have a name, much less a large community of patient advocates. For the most part, clinicians dismissed its symptoms, and researchers focused on SARS-CoV-2 infections’ short-term effects. Now, as the pandemic approaches the end of its third winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the chronic toll of the coronavirus is much more familiar. Long COVID has been acknowledged by prominent experts, national leaders, and the World Health Organization; the National Institutes of Health has set up a billion-dollar research program to understand how and in whom its symptoms unfurl. Hundreds of long-COVID clinics now freckle the American landscape, offering services in nearly every state; and recent data hint that well-vetted drugs to treat or prevent long COVID may someday be widespread. Long COVID and the people battling it are commanding more respect, says Hannah Davis, a co-founder of the Patient-Led Research Collaborative, who has had long COVID for nearly three years: Finally, many people “seem willing to understand.” But for all the ground that’s been gained, the road ahead is arduous. Long COVID still lacks a universal clinical definition and a standard diagnosis protocol; there’s no consensus on its prevalence, or even what symptoms fall under its purview. Although experts now agree that long COVID does not refer to a single illness, but rather is an umbrella term, like cancer, they disagree on the number of subtypes that fall within it and how, exactly, each might manifest. Some risk factors—among them, a COVID hospitalization, female sex, and certain preexisting medical conditions—have been identified, but researchers are still trying to identify others amid fluctuating population immunity and the endless slog of viral variants. And for people who have long COVID now, or might develop it soon, the interventions are still scant. To this day, “when someone asks me, ‘How can I not get long COVID?’ I can still only say, ‘Don’t get COVID,’” says David Putrino, a neuroscientist and physical therapist who leads a long-COVID rehabilitation clinic at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine…”

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