Long COVID or Post-Acute Sequelae SARS-CoV-2 (PASC) – What is it?

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Most of us have either now had COVID-19 or know someone who has. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and for most people recovery occurs within a week or two. Other people however continue to suffer from lingering symptoms for weeks or months after they start to recover. This is called Long COVID or PASC (Post-Acute Sequelae SARS-CoV-2).

Who Is Likely to Develop PASC?

With two years of data available to researchers, it appears that about 10% of people 18-49 who get COVID go on to suffer from PASC. As age or the number of risk factors increases so does the percentage of those getting PASC. For those over 70, it appears the chance of developing PASC increases to over 20%.

According to the Mayo Clinic, even people who had mild cases of COVID can go on to develop PASC. If you have had COVID-19 and are continuing to suffer symptoms after four weeks then you are generally considered to be suffering from PASC.

Older people and those with serious pre-existing medical conditions are the most likely to develop PASC but even those who are young and healthy can feel unwell for weeks or months. 

What Are the Symptoms of PASC?

The most common symptoms that linger include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain
  • Memory, concentration, or sleep problems
  • Muscle pain or headache
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Fever
  • Dizziness when you stand
  • Worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities

COVID-19 can also cause organ damage in some individuals. The heart, kidneys and brain are sometimes damaged. Some people also go on to have long-term breathing problems, heart complications, stroke, Guillain-Barre syndrome (temporary paralysis) and kidney trouble.

The virus can also make individuals more susceptible to suffer blood clots which can easily cause heart damage, heart attack and stroke. The lungs, liver, and kidneys can also be damaged by blood clots. The virus can also cause a weakening of the blood vessels that contribute to long-term kidney and liver damage.

Are All Symptoms Physical?

No, according to the Mayo Clinic some individuals who have severe COVID symptoms that were treated in ICU with invasive therapies like ventilators are more likely to develop PTSD, depression and anxiety.

Chronic fatigue syndrome was linked to SARS is also evident in some who have had COVID-19. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex disorder. It is characterized by extreme fatigue that gets worse with mental or physical exertion. It does not improve even with rest and can go on to make the patient unemployable, ill and isolated.

What Should You Do if You Think You Have COVID?

The best way to prevent getting COVID-19 is to vaccinate and to practice medical precautions like wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding a crowd. If you think you have COVID you should rapid-test to confirm your suspicions and isolate for the recommended period of time. If you develop serious symptoms or have breathing difficulties you should seek medical care immediately.