Long COVID-19 could offer lessons for other chronic diseases

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Posted at 10:03 AM, Jun 30, 2021

As we learn more about COVID-19 long-haulers, we could learn more about those with other chronic diseases.

“The idea that having, you know, a virus that sort of a, you know, produces long-term consequences is really not new. What distinguishes COVID from all the other viruses previously is really the sheer scale of it,” said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, with the VA St. Louis Health Care System.

Dr. Al-Aly is studying long COVID-19. He led a recent study that found COVID-19 long-haulers had a 59% increased risk of dying within six months after contracting the virus.

Something else he's watching is the number of opioids prescribed for pain and the possible long-term impact of that opioid use.

Dr. Al-Aly says long COVID-19 is unique because it can impact nearly every organ system.

At its core, he says there are similarities to other viral illnesses. He sees that as a positive sign for people with chronic fatigue syndrome.

“We see there's a lot of overlap in the symptomatology and the hope is that a greater understanding of long COVID itself will also help us solve the chronic fatigue syndrome puzzle and hopefully also develop therapeutics there to really help patients with chronic fatigue syndrome,” said Dr. Al-Aly.

He hopes long COVID-19 will make doctors less likely to dismiss the lingering problems people say they're experiencing when it comes to other post-viral syndromes.