Every COVID Infection Increases Your Risk of Long COVID, Study Warns

Recent studies highlight a concerning trend that each COVID-19 infection raises the likelihood of developing long COVID, challenging the notion that repeated mild infections are inconsequential.

The Risk Escalates:

Initial risks of long COVID are relatively lower, especially in vaccinated individuals and younger demographics. However, this risk escalates with each subsequent infection. Even mild symptoms don't mitigate the growing threat of long COVID, characterized by persistent health issues affecting various organs and mental health.

Expert Warning:

Physician Rambod Rouhbakhsh, in an American Medical Association podcast, emphasized the severity of recurring COVID infections. He likened the risk to playing Russian roulette, dispelling myths that repeated exposures are harmless.

Defining Long COVID:

Long COVID presents as a multisystem disease with potentially lifelong impacts. Prevalence rates are debated, ranging from 10 to 50 percent in those infected. Currently, an estimated 65 million people globally suffer from long COVID, with children being less affected but not immune.

Veteran Study Insights:

A study following 138,818 US veterans over two years revealed that each reinfection increases the risk of long COVID across multiple organ systems. The findings suggest a cumulative effect of long COVID with each reinfection.

Broader Evidence:

Further supporting these findings, a Canadian study involving a wide age range across 10 provinces echoed similar conclusions. Additionally, an unreviewed study analyzing 1.5 million US individuals post-Delta and Omicron variants also noted increased long COVID risks after reinfections.

Percentage of adults with long term symptoms increases with the number of infections reported. (Kuang et al., Insights on Canadian Society, 2023)

Immune System Alterations:

COVID-19 impacts memory T cells, essential for long-term immunity, leading to their depletion. This may contribute to more severe and frequent outbreaks of other diseases.

New Surges and Variants:

As the new year approaches, new surges in COVID infections are detected worldwide. The JN.1 strain, or Pirola, presents new challenges due to a mutation that evades immune responses, even from past vaccines and infections. However, the latest XBB.1.5 vaccines show promise against this new strain.

Call to Action:

Given the potential cumulative nature of long COVID, experts, including clinicians, scientists, disability advocates, and journalists, have urged President Biden for increased support for those affected by the condition.

In conclusion, while the challenges posed by recurring COVID-19 infections and the emergence of new variants are undeniable, there is a silver lining. The continuous advancements in vaccine development and our growing understanding of the virus offer hope. We're better equipped now than ever before to combat these challenges. It's crucial, however, to remain vigilant and proactive in our approach to public health, ensuring we stay one step ahead in this ongoing battle against COVID-19.

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