Based on infection and mortality numbers, many people are (rightfully) concerned about contracting COVID-19 and living through the experience. But a growing number of survivors are proving there may be more to worry about than just survival as they are now facing long-term challenges. A condition called post-viral syndrome has many health professionals concerned. Here's what that looks like.
PVS is a condition where COVID-19 survivors experience bouts of extreme tiredness and weakness in the days and weeks following COVID-19 recovery. This includes chronic fatigue and brain fog, and may also be characterized as myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).
This seems to be related to a build-up of inflammatory cytokines in the central nervous system during COVID-19 that may lead to these and other recurring symptoms:
Why some COVID-19 survivors are more prone to PVS is unknown. There is no cure for the condition. So far, healthcare providers can only recommend supportive treatments for underlying illnesses and conditions and recommend getting plenty of rest. But this may not be enough for everyone.
Researchers still don't know a lot about several aspects of the novel coronavirus or why it affects some individuals differently than others. Many people who contract COVID-19 recover fully after experiencing mild-to-moderate upper respiratory symptoms. But some may have more long-term effects even if they don't face PVS, such as:
Post-viral complications may present as chronic health conditions that may change the long-term quality of life for those affected.
Just as with the coronavirus itself, the same risk factors that predispose some people to more severe cases of the virus also seem to increase their risks of PVS. Factors which increase risks for both include:
Consult with your healthcare provider about underlying conditions, and follow their care plan instructions and guidelines carefully to help manage the condition. In the case of COVID-19, those with these challenges should take extra precautions during the pandemic to protect themselves.
Prevention of COVID-19 is still the best way to stay protected from PVS. Practice social distancing, wear a mask when in public (indoors or out) and stay away from people who may have come in contact with COVID.
Don't touch your face. Use proper handwashing techniques including frequent washing and use hand sanitizer when handwashing facilities are not available. Take extra care to keep commonly used surfaces clean and disinfected at all times. And if you live with someone who falls into these categories, take extra care to prevent bringing any germs into their environment.
Even though researchers haven’t yet solved the mystery of why some people experience troubling long-term effects from COVID, there is still reason to be optimistic. Advances in treatment, better testing techniques, and more awareness of the virus are allowing all of us to manage our risks more effectively. There are a number of research fronts tat may soon yield new treatments or prevention options, and we will keep you updated. It may still be some time before we have effective cures for COVID and the related syndromes that it has spawned, so minimizing risk is still the best and safest way to push forward.
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