A recent study of what’s commonly called “long COVID-19,” found that about 10% of people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 experience lingering symptoms months after first becoming infected.
Medical researchers and scientists call this condition post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, or PASC. Sequela (or plural, sequelae) is a condition that stems from a previous illness — in this case, the initial COVID-19 infection — and SARS-CoV-2 is the scientific name of the virus that causes COVID-19.
The people who have PASC are often referred to as “long-haulers,” and their symptoms range from mild to severe, and from physical to psychological — all of which have lasted for months. Here’s what we know about PASC and COVID-19 long-haulers so far.
Understanding PASC: Who Is Considered a Coronavirus Long-Hauler?
Someone who has PASC experiences symptoms for 28 days or more after they were first infected with COVID-19.
Symptoms of Long-COVID-19 or PASC
More research is needed to understand PASC, but reported symptoms of PASC include:
- Brain fog
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep disturbances or disorders
Who Gets PASC and Why?
There is not yet enough data available to determine who is most at-risk of getting PASC and being a long-hauler. There’s been a mix of young, healthy patients who have experienced lingering symptoms, as well as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions.
Most people with PASC do tend to be considered high risk, but there are many who were healthy before being diagnosed with COVID-19, as well.
The reason why some people experiencing lingering symptoms while others don’t is still greatly unknown. We don’t yet know the full long-term effects of coronavirus, including the impact on organs, and there isn’t enough data available yet to know why some bodies react differently than others to the same virus.
Are Long-Haulers Contagious?
Often times, a person who is considered a long-hauler will test negative for COVID-19 between one to two weeks after becoming infected but will have lingering symptoms along with the negative test.
Someone who is infected with COVID-19 is contagious at least a week after the time of infection, though this can vary with long-haulers. Generally, if someone tests negative, they aren’t likely to be contagious, but it depends on the symptoms they’re experiencing.
The most common symptom that long-haulers report lingering on for weeks or months is fatigue. Many people have said simple tasks, like walking to their car or going up the steps, cause exhaustion. Some long-haulers also say they experience “COVID-19 brain,” having trouble concentrating or feeling like their thought process is foggy. This symptom may not develop until weeks after being diagnosed.
Research Into PASC Is Now Funded
The good news is that the National Institute of Health (NIH) has recently been granted $1.15 billion in funding to study:
- How many people develop new symptoms
- The long-term effects of COVID-19 infection
- The biological cause of PASC
- Why some people get PASC and others don’t
- The impact of COVID-19 on the brain or heart
What to Do if You Think You Have PASC
If you tested positive for COVID-19 over 28 days ago and are still experiencing symptoms, please get in touch with your primary care physician so you can begin healing. Your health care provider can look into testing in various areas, including respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological health. Long-haulers need to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, try to limit stress and eat healthfully.
Can COVID-19 Long-Haulers Get the Vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stated that people who have had COVID-19 can still receive the COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms. However, it’s suggested to wait at least 10 days after showing symptoms to get vaccinated, if it’s available to you.
Keeping the Community Safe
Basic steps like social distancing and wearing a mask are the best ways to protect yourself and everyone around you, whether you’re a long hauler or not. Continue to practice the safety steps you already know, like:
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily
- Getting your annual flu shot
- Staying at least 6 feet apart from others in public
- Washing your hands often with soap and water or using sanitizer often
- Wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose when around others
As more information on COVID-19 treatments becomes available, we’ll keep you informed. Stay in the loop by visiting the Coronavirus Vaccine Resource Hub. When the vaccine is available to you, you’ll be able to schedule an appointment. Sign up now for email alerts on vaccine updates. Get your shot - encourage their shot!