Log In

Reset Password
Columnists View from the Center Bear Smart The Travel Troubleshooter Dear Abby Student Aide Of Sound Mind Others Say Powerful solutions You are What You Eat Out Standing in the Fields What's up in Durango Skies Watch Yore Topknot Local First RE-4 Education Update MECC Cares for kids

Preventing post COVID-19 conditions

It is a condition with many names. Long COVID-19, long-haul COVID-19, post-acute COVID-19, post-acute sequelae of SARS COoV-2 infection, long-term effects of COVID-19 and chronic COVID-19 all describe the same thing.

Long COVID-19 is not one condition but likely represents a group of overlapping conditions with different risk factors, causes, and outcomes. Also known as post COVID-19 conditions, long COVID-19 involves signs, symptoms, and conditions that continue or develop four weeks after the initial phase of infection. One in every five adults under age 65 will likely experience such an ongoing health issue and the rate increases to one in every four adults aged 65 years and older.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, post-COVID-19 conditions can produce a wide range of symptoms that last for weeks, months or even years after infection. Sometimes, the symptoms can go away only to return again.

Much is still not known about long COVID-19 and the symptoms vary significantly. Most people report tiredness and fatigue that interferes with daily life. Symptoms may get worse with physical or mental effort. They can include shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, heart palpitations, difficulty thinking or concentrating, headache, sleep problems, dizziness, diarrhea, stomach pain, muscle pain, rash and menstrual irregularities among affected women. The list goes on.

Some people are at increased risk of post COVID-19 conditions, including those who experienced more severe COVID-19 illness, those with underlying health conditions before COVID-19 infection and those who did not get a COVID-19 vaccine.

There is mounting evidence that vaccination and early antiviral treatment of acute COVID-19 infection may significantly reduce the risk of long COVID-19 among those who become infected with COVID-19. You read that right. Even if you experience an infection after vaccination, your risk of long COVID-19 is likely reduced because of the vaccine. Similarly, your risk is likely reduced if you take the antiviral medication, Paxlovid, soon after becoming infected.

A publication last week in JAMA Internal Medicine evaluated over 40 studies that included 860,000 people. Those who had been vaccinated against COVID-19 had almost half the risk of long COVID-19 as those who were not vaccinated. In another study, early treatment with the antiviral medication, Paxlovid, reduced the risk of long COVID-19 by 26%. These findings were both in addition to the benefits of both vaccination and Paxlovid in reducing the risk of severe acute infection, including hospitalization and death.

While there is much left to learn about long COVID-19, it is becoming increasingly clear that staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccination and seeking early treatment when infected can reduce the risk of post COVID-19 conditions.

Dr. Matthew A. Clark, a board-certified physician in internal medicine and pediatrics, works for the Indian Health Service.