SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, health experts are gaining a greater understanding of the disease every day, including the ever evolving long COVID.
Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, Chief of Research and Development at the Saint Louis VA Hospital, and director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System, told KCBS Radio's "Ask An Expert" the effects of long COVID may not be immediately apparent when the disease takes hold.
"We definitely do understand long COVID now better than we did two years ago, but the story is still evolving, there's still much needed to be done, especially in the areas of developing treatments for patients with long COVID and also developing strategies to prevent long COVID," he said.
Breaking down misconceptions, Al-Aly explained that long COVID can manifest in any person with a COVID-19 infection, not just those who are high risk. "Literally anyone who gets COVID-19 can be at risk of long COVID. This includes children, this includes men, women, young people, even people who were previously absolutely healthy," he said. "There is a misconception that long COVID can only happen in people who are hospitalized or have been in the ICU, it can absolutely happen even in people who have asymptomatic disease."
Long COVID symptoms can range from mild fatigue to a dramatic disruption in organ function.
"It really varies," Al-Aly said. "Some people have really mild symptoms or mild fatigue, mild brain fog, but then they can sort of carry on with their daily activities and can still contribute to the workforce. The other end of the spectrum you have people with debilitating fatigue. They literally cannot get out of bed."
In some cases, a long COVID infection could even be hidden, Al-Aly warned. "Some people have manifestations of the disease in the form of new onset diabetes and kidney disease, and those could be silent. People could be walking around with really significant kidney problems and not even know it."