The Nevada Independent published an op-ed I wrote to address a question on the minds of many – when will I get better from COVID-19?
One of the most painful aspects of the pandemic as a chronically-ill person is seeing the unfolding of one of the most significant mass disabling events the world has seen, in relative and absolute terms. Spend a few minutes on Twitter, and you will see a barrage of heartbreaking tweets from people grappling with the loss of their previously healthy and active selves. It is wrenching to see so many people en masse going through similar stages we see with ME/CFS.
People with ME want to scream (and do often and loudly) when people minimize the pandemic by saying that the vast majority of infections are mild. While true, this messaging fails to mention that 1 in 4 people who get COVID will develop long-term health complications, even from mild infections. This statistic has been seen in study after study and in various countries, including the US. Even breakthrough infections (and the vaccines themselves) can result in health complications. However, a recent study indicated that vaccines may provide some protection against long-haul COVID. This is cold comfort for those who got COVID before the vaccines were widely available. Even if only a fraction of longhaulers develop ME/CFS, a considerable number of people will end up with this (currently) incurable illness.
I feel a bit like Chicken Little (as in “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”) sometimes, but if I still had my health, I probably would think that the risk of long-haul COVID does not apply to me. Call it the conceit of the healthy. Then again, how many people believe that infectious mononucleosis can land you a ME/CFS diagnosis? (The answer is about 10%).
Predicting who will get long-haul COVID and ME/CFS is one of the core questions in post-viral diseases. A recent study showed there is an immune signature associated with long-haul COVID. The study followed 175 people with COVID (and 40 healthy controls) for over a year. Those who developed long-haul symptoms had low IgM and IgG in subclass 3. While this is fascinating, how many healthy people know their IgM and IgG3 status? Would this knowledge change how people approach the virus? Hard to say.