Despite the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic gradually being brought under control thanks to widespread vaccinations, many patients are experiencing complications and symptoms of the virus long after their illness has passed. This condition, known as “Long-Haul COVID,” has some experts worried that the health impacts of the coronavirus may have a profound effect on livelihoods far into the future.
Doctor Claire Pomeroy, an infectious disease physician, researcher, and president of the Lasker Foundation, wrote in an editorial in Scientific American this week that “we need to plan for a future where millions of survivors are chronically ill” and that she foresees a “tsunami of disability” claims from individuals whom COVID-19 has left debilitated.
“Many who survive the initial viral illness suffer debilitating long-term sequelae. Unlike the common cold or even influenza, this virus causes a bewildering array of symptoms that persist long after the acute illness is resolved and can render some affected unable to resume their usual activities. As scientists and clinicians continue to delineate the “long-haul” course of COVID, policymakers and planners must anticipate and prepare for the impact of this new cause of disability, including its implications for federal and private worker’s compensation and disability insurance programs and support services,” Pomeroy wrote.
Symptoms of “long-haul COVID” often mimic those of active disease and may even trigger autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, Pomeroy explained.
“Common long-term symptoms include fatigue; respiratory problems; ‘brain fog’; cardiac, renal and gastrointestinal issues; and loss of smell and taste. Surprising manifestations continue to emerge, such as the recent realization that infection may precipitate diabetes,” she said.
Pomeroy’s primary concern is that the United States is unequipped to handle the sheer volume of chronically sick people that will inundate the already strained health care and social safety net programs.
“It’s understandable that we don’t yet have all the issues related to COVID-associated disability figured out; we haven’t fully grasped all the implications of this pernicious (and still somewhat mysterious) malady. After all, since early 2020, we’ve been struggling to address the immediate crisis and how to deal with the new problems that arise day by day,” wrote Pomeroy. “But the time has come to proactively plan for what will certainly be the enormous new impact that long-haul COVID will have on our disability programs.”
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.