Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of people across the globe have contracted Covid-19, and while many have unfortunately lost their lives to the virus, millions of people have been able to recover from Covid-19. However, recovering from Covid-19 may not mean the end to all problems for patients. Many people who have recovered from the Covid-19 have expressed that they are still experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, muscle/body aches, and shortness of breath.
What is a Long-Hauler?
These people that are showing continued symptoms of Covid-19, even after “recovering” from the virus, are being referred to as Covid-19 long-haulers. As mentioned before, long-haulers face lingering, persistent symptoms such as constant fatigue, difficulty breathing, and headaches that have prolonged to weeks or even months after defeating the virus. In a well-written article by the New York Times, the experience of Covid-19 long-haulers is examined. The article focuses on myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and how it relates to covid-19 long-haulers.
While rather unknown by many, ME/CFS has been around and diagnosed for a decent amount of time. ME/CFS often follows viral infections, thus it is really no surprise to the people who have been researching ME/CFS, like Jamie Seltzer, a main contributor to the article, that an estimated 10% of Covid-19 patients are suffering symptoms like fatigue, brain fog and chronic pain for prolonged periods of time. The article explains that the amount of Covid-19 long-haulers that have tested positive for COVID-19 or its antibodies makes a strong case that coronavirus is turning into ME/CFS.
While the exact cause of ME/CFS is not completely understood, findings of immune abnormalities in some ME/CFS patients, such as elevated levels of certain cytokines or poorly functioning immune cells, has enabled researchers to believe that the immune system plays a role in the development of ME/CFS. In relation to our AP Biology class, we learned about the immune system and the function of cytokines. Cytokines attract neutrophils, which digest pathogens and dead cell debris, as well as dendritic cells. Cytokines are important in regulating the body’s response to disease and infection.
Since ME/CFS is unknown to many, and the exacts of how it occurs is not completely understood, the article notes that ME/CFS is regarded as a contested illness. This means that the legitimacy of ME/CFS is questioned by some in the medical field. Many coronavirus long-haulers have noted that they have experienced doctors who were skeptical, rude, or unhelpful, if not baldly disbelieving of their condition/symptoms. Thus, the main point of the article is that the Covid-19 long-haulers should open the eyes of many in the medical field to the legitimacy of ME/CFS. It is a hope by some in the ME/CFS research field that the experience of Covid-19 long-haulers will prompt more research into ME/CFS, a condition that receives fractional amounts for research compared to more known illnesses.
After reading this article, I do believe I’ve gained a lot. As a rather healthy young adult, the idea that “if I got covid, I’d be fine,” sort of plagues your mind. However, now I know that it is much more complicated than that. If the estimation that 10% of Covid-19 patients experience prolonged symptoms is accurate, then it should definitely prompt more people of my age to make sure they are doing everything they can to prevent the contraction and the spread of the virus. The cure to ME/CFS is still unknown, so it is crucial we do what we can to prevent getting it.