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Long COVID Syndrome – Are You Getting the Support You Need?

There are millions of Americans suffering from symptoms and lasting effects of the support for long Covid-19 pandemic. These people are called “long COVID” or “post-Covid” syndrome, and they may not be getting the support they need.

Long Covid affects all ages, but it’s particularly hard for working-age adults. In a new study, Harvard University economist David Cutler estimates that as many as 3.5 million people are still out of work because of long Covid, costing the economy $1 trillion over five years.

Many of those affected are younger, and their symptoms can last months or even years. These include fatigue, headaches, memory problems, and a persistently scratchy or hoarse voice. Some have also experienced heart complications, blood clots, or damage to their skin and kidneys.

It’s unclear exactly how these long-term symptoms arise, but researchers are investigating several possible causes. One theory is that the virus triggers an immune reaction that produces harmful antibodies against the virus that can persist after the illness has passed. Researchers are also experimenting with ways to replace these antibodies without damaging healthy cells, so that patients can recover fully from the virus.

A number of factors may increase the risk for developing long-term symptoms after infection. These include being female, having type 2 diabetes or EBV reactivation, having certain autoantibodies or connective tissue disorders, and being on lower incomes, which make it harder to get rest in the early weeks of infection.

Having a strong support system, such as a spouse or partner, can help. But it’s also critical to find a medical team that’s willing to listen and understand the challenges you’re facing. A doctor who believes you and who can prescribe treatment that will actually work is key.

The CDC has published resources for workers, employers and young people dealing with the impact of long Covid. The Job Accommodation Network can connect you with tools and accommodations that can keep you at work during your recovery from long Covid. And the CDC’s Covid webpage has a list of symptom-tracking resources.

To track the full impact of long-term Covid, better data collection is needed. Adding questions on long-Covid to the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) is a good start, but more needs to be done. Policymakers should consider adding questions on long-Covid to the Current Population Survey, which has a larger sample size and more rigorous methods than HPS. This would help us to better understand how and if long-Covid impacts work, including how it relates to SSDI benefits. And to understand whether specific groups of people are disproportionately impacted by long-Covid, we need more studies that identify potential risk factors and explain why those groups may be at higher risk. Finally, we need more research to determine the best way to test for the presence of long-Covid antibodies in blood. This is a critical step in our journey to develop a diagnostic for this condition and support effective interventions that will relieve its burden.

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