Continuing my experiences and reading about COVID and surrounding conditions, antivirals, recovery, etc.
Right off the bat, let me say that I believe that Long COVID is definitely a thing. Others (including the medical profession) are divided about that. But I extend that to include not just COVID, but all viruses. Most viruses leave effing great bootprints all over the human body.
A Short History Of Long COVID
People are only just beginning to realise it. Viral diseases leave lasting damage. Once a few people had caught COVID-19 and then (apparently) had the disease run its course, there was a contingent of recovered patients that – irritatingly and obstinately – had not seen all the symptoms of the disease recover, and some even developed symptoms that others displayed earlier in the disease or were new for COVID-19 patients.
A few doctors thought it was just psychosomatic, or malingering, or a form of hypochondria. But a few recognised that perhaps there was something there. After all, COVID-19 left lungs scarred, hearts damaged, issues of liver or other organs, and sometimes even brain damage in its wake. Why wouldn’t that kind of damage extend to the whole gamut of systems that could be affected?
And so at the moment they’re blaming Long COVID (LC) for such symptoms. But in fact, if you look back even a decade, we’ve had these Long-COVID-like symptoms being experienced before COVID-19 ever arose, which may be why it’s been so difficult to assign a definitive diagnosis to LC. It seems to be a syndrome that’s existed before.
Firstly, Long COVID’s defined (very broadly and sporadically) as a group of symptoms, some combination of which will present in a person that may or may not have LC depending on which doctor you speak to. It seems to mimic a bunch of other diseases or syndromes. Depending which website/study/statistics you read, the number of people who catch COVID-19 end up with Long COVID can be anywhere between 5% and 33% of convalescents.
Taking the middle ground, that’s 19% of people infected develop Long COVID approximately. I have no idea – I know that both my wife and I recuperated seemingly normally after the antivirals, but I’m still short of breath six weeks later and despite having received a flu vaccination as soon as it was possible, I have a sore throat and feel feverish and weak. Any movement past a leisurely walk or typing brings out a post exertion malaise with sweating, dyspnea, and almost to the point of collapsing weakness.
Wife’s not much better, she too has this flu type illness and in fact as seems to be becoming usual with us she caught it a few days earlier than I did again. We’re both also subject to loud and ground-shaking construction work across the road and that’s been going on for ten months now. It means we’re both ragged from the stress and shock of the noises and shakings. We’re retired so our only chice for escaping is to go sit in the local mall and expose ourselves to every passing infection (masks notwithstanding, it seems) or sit shivering in the car or sit warm in the car wasting fuel to keep warm.
Hmmm, maybe a quick look at how we describe the range of malaise that afflicts might help:
- Illness: This term is used to describe a person’s subjective experience of feeling unwell or being in a state of poor health. It refers to the perception or experience of being sick or having symptoms, such as pain, fatigue, or discomfort. Illness can be caused by various factors, including diseases, infections, injuries, or psychological issues.
- Syndrome: A syndrome refers to a set of signs and symptoms that occur together and often represent a particular medical condition or disease. Syndromes are characterized by a recognizable pattern of symptoms, which may or may not have a known underlying cause. The identification of a syndrome helps doctors in diagnosing and categorizing certain conditions, but it may not always provide a clear understanding of the exact cause or mechanism.
- Disease: A disease refers to a specific abnormal condition or disorder that affects the body’s structure or function. It is often characterized by a specific set of symptoms and has an identifiable pathological process or cause. Diseases can be caused by various factors, including infections, genetic mutations, environmental factors, or a combination of these. Diseases are typically diagnosed based on specific criteria, such as clinical signs, laboratory tests, or imaging studies.
- Condition: The term “condition” is a broad and inclusive term that encompasses a wide range of health-related states. It can refer to any abnormality or disturbance in the normal functioning of the body or mind, regardless of whether it is a disease, syndrome, or illness. Conditions can include chronic diseases, acute illnesses, injuries, disorders, or other health-related states.
- Note: above list compiled by ChatGPT and only cursorily checked by me.
So it seems that Long COVID is more of a syndrome than a specific disease or condition. Take a glance at this article in The Guardian which presents a good analysis of Long COVID. I’ll copy their list below. The most common symptoms reported by long Covid patients two months into their illness are:
- Fatigue – almost 90% of people diagnosed with Long COVID say they’re tired all the time.
- Post exertional malaise – 70% get short of breath, achey, sometimes dizzy, sweaty after exertion. And their bar for “exertion” is considerably lower than it is for a healthy person.
> In descending order of occurrence here are the ranks for the rest of the symptoms:
- Brain fog – people say they lose track of what they’re doing, “phase out” and back, can’t get their sh*t together.
- Shortness of breath – and
- Tightness of chest – seem also related to the last entry in this list, breathing difficulty. Long story short, LC affects the lungs.
- Sensorimotor like tingling)
- Headaches and related
- Memory issues
- Muscle aches
- Heart palpitations
- Dizziness/vertigo/balance issues
- Breathing difficulty
- Note: List based on the Guardian article and summarised and explained by me.
The article itself contains a pretty good analysis of figures and percentages of these symptoms and claims for Long Covid, but I’ve been wondering… What else is Long COVID like?
Long COVID Be Like…
… a lot of other “mysterious” illnesses and syndromes we’ve been having trouble coming to grips with, medically. You know, things that some doctors think are actual illnesses, and other doctors think are just fictitious psychosomatic or imagined conditions, and still others are willing to just treat the symptoms but without committing to a definite diagnosis. The thing is, all these illnesses and syndromes are real to the sufferers, hard to explain or define, and all the symptoms of them are very similar to the symptoms described above.
I think it’s a bit like dragons, demons and angels, flood legends, etc. All generally dismissed as fanciful myths – but there are variations of such things in almost every race and culture in every part of the planet. They can’t ALL have had the SAME “fanciful figments of imagination,” over and over and over and over. Can they? There were also people who thought that the Earth revolved around the sun. and others who thought the opposite. Cycles and cycles of them, again in every imaginable race and place. And right now we think that our grasp of physics is rock solid, but there are other physicists that are finding that nothing’s actually rock solid anywhere in the Universe. Things exist, things that were once understood to be one thing were later discovered to be another thing entirely. And some horrible fatal diseases are now treatable, and simple things like fermenting in lead or pewter, once believed to be the right way to
So let’s presume for the moment that these illnesses, difficult as they are to definitively diagnose (or believe, apparently) are real. These conditions are things like:
- Fibromyalgia: Although widely recognized, there has been historical skepticism and controversy surrounding the diagnosis of fibromyalgia due to the absence of clear diagnostic tests and the subjective nature of its symptoms.
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS): ME/CFS has faced controversy and debate regarding its definition, diagnostic criteria, and even its existence as a distinct medical condition. However, the scientific consensus recognizes it as a real and debilitating illness.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits. Its diagnosis is based on symptoms rather than specific diagnostic tests, which can lead to disagreements and skepticism.
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS): MCS is a condition where individuals experience adverse reactions to low-level chemical exposures that are typically well-tolerated by others. The medical community has debated its existence and diagnostic criteria, leading to controversy and skepticism.
- Gulf War Illness (GWI): GWI refers to a cluster of unexplained symptoms experienced by veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Its cause and precise diagnostic criteria have been subjects of controversy and ongoing research.
- Note: above list compiled by ChatGPT and only cursorily checked by me. Bold sections added by me to demonstrate the BS surrounding these illnesses.
What these all have in common is that they ignite debate in the medical community. Is there a diagnosis for fibro? ME/CFS? What actually causes IBS, why are there so many allergies and sensitivities to particular chemicals and/or drugs?
I know that after almost every virus illness I’ve had since teen-age, each has left some damage behind. Some damage partially repairs itself, but most of it is cumulative in the system. I found that every virus caused a sharp decline in my overall health, and most systems didn’t bounce back to their previous levels. A new viral illness aggravated some of the symptoms that previous viruses created, aggravated other pre-existing conditions, and often also left a few new time-bombs behind.
I developed some acute respiratory issues after a series of five viruses that came one pretty much after another and most symptoms never recovered back to their former levels – digestive issues, mental alertness issues, fatigue issues; Even psoriasis, nerve conduction issues, muscle pains, random sweating, poor temperature regulation, memory issues; And half a dozen smaller issues – that all shared one thing. They worsened after each bout with viruses.
I’d had Influenza A and B (several times, as it turned out), glandular fever of one variety or another that was extremely severe, a few unidentified respiratory viruses and of course COVID. And COVID has an effect that’s of note: It demonstrably affects parts of the brain.
That’s not to say that COVID alone causes this brain issue. I developed a chronic insomnia after the long queue of viruses I mentioned last paragraph, and also, paradoxically, a tendency to fall asleep at random times of the day. I remember being able to sit and concentrate on a day of programming without referring to the manual at all, but suddenly, my concentration was shot, and I had to refer to the manual for some of the less common commands. I’d get headaches, and small and loud unexpected noises began to trash my “Zone” as I called it. (It’s a common term in programming and tasks requiring concentration, memory, and skills.)
I Just Call It “Long Virus” Now
I mentioned a thing several articles back regarding the idea of “convalescence” and how it seems to have fallen out of public favour, and yet it’s a thing that we need to be especially aware of now. It may be something that will become important again.
Imagine: A machinery operator has had three or four bouts of flu in their life, catches COVID, tests clean after a fortnight, goes back to work. Unbeknownst to themself or their colleagues and company, their sense of smell wasn’t the only brain function affected. . . Operating their excavator at work on the second day back on the job, they “fade out” for a millisecond while swinging the implement, overswing by ten centimetres nick a gas main, and die in the subsequent explosion along with two work colleagues.
Because the brain fog, memory issues, tiredness, reduction of gustatory and olfactory senses, and (apparently) reduction of function of centres of the brain responsible for social functioning are just that, brain damage, and they need a period of convalescence and even rehabilitation to regain, if they can be regained at all.
Long COVID has now become recognised as a problem, but it’s only called Long COVID because of the publicity that COVID’s attracted in the last three years, and should really have been studied as all those “non-diseases” that the medical community have been trying to ignore for half a century. With luck, research and study of these illnesses will start to produce some results soon.
Because viruses won’t go away, the damage they wreak won’t go away, and the danger here is that we’ll collapse as a society not because COVID or it’s next iteration kills us outright but because society will collapse trying to deal with the concept that people actually are more important than money and should be looked after. . .
And. . . Wrapping It Up
My experience is one person’s, and probably not typical of 75% of the population. But I can guarantee you that if you’ve had a single virus illness in your life, it’ll have left damage in your system, sometimes obvious and irreparable, sometimes not so obvious, sometimes partly repairable. But you’ll never get away scot-free.
Agitate. Write emails to MPs and Ministers, to newspapers and magazines. Share this article. Bring this stuff up in conversation.