Hospitals Brace for Fourth Wave of COVID-19

Johns Hopkins, the CDC and the NIAID have all said the recent numbers of new COVID-19 cases show that the U.S. is at risk of a new surge. The more deadly and more catching UK variant is now the most common type in the country, so they are urging caution. With two other worrying studies coming out this week about COVID-19's lasting impact, it's important we all keep following public health guidelines and not give in to fatigue.

A lot of your risk depends on where you live; the U.S. is a large country. Five states have had 43 percent of the U.S. new cases in the last week. While some health officials and areas expect to see higher numbers than they have since the beginning of the pandemic, others expect it to remain level. You should be careful, but look up your personal risks.

As we are now a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been time for some longer-term studies. A new report has found that one in 10 people who had even a mild case of COVID-19 still have at least one symptom eight months after their illness. The most common lingering symptoms are loss of taste and or smell and fatigue. The symptom is bad enough that the patient reported it impacting their daily life.

The study looked at COVID-19 patients who were healthcare workers. They were mostly younger and healthy and had only had mild cases. "Despite the fact that the study participants had a mild COVID-19 infection, a relatively large proportion report long-term symptoms with an impact on quality of life. In light of this, we believe that young and healthy individuals, as well as other groups in society, should have great respect for the virus that seems to be able to significantly impair quality of life, even for a long time after the infection," said Sebastian Havervall, deputy chief physician at Danderyd Hospital.

This shows that, even though COVID-19 has sometimes been poo-pooed by younger people, it is serious at all ages. If you have someone younger in your life who hasn't been taking the virus seriously, speak to them about staying safe for their own sake as well as yours!

Moreover, another study has found that one-third of people who recover from COVID-19 are then diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within six months. While some people were diagnosed with anxiety and depression after recovering, others had strokes, neurological problems and dementia.

"Our results indicate that brain diseases and psychiatric disorders are more common after COVID-19 than after flu or other respiratory infections, even when patients are matched for other risk factors," said study co-author Dr. Max Taquet, a professor at the Univ. of Oxford.

Understandably, people might be more prone to depression or anxiety after suffering a serious illness. But the cause of the strokes, dementia and other physical problems is less obvious. "One of the more obvious explanations may be that COVID-19 affects the brain more than other viruses. It gets into the brain directly," said the lead author of the study Dr. Paul Harrison, of the Univ. of Oxford.

The doctors also pointed out that the patients and their doctors might be hyper-vigilant. They might be noting the symptoms of dementia and other brain problems more quickly than they usually would because they are still being watched after recovering from COVID-19. It is possible, but that wouldn't explain the link to the strokes.

Both of these studies give us yet more reason to steer clear of COVID-19. More and more people are being vaccinated every day. Almost half of America's adults have had their first shot of a vaccine. We are on the road to normalcy, but we aren't there yet. Everyone is tired and more than ready for this to be over, but until it is, stay safe!

Banner image: Sorapong Chaipanya via Pexels

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