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Diagnosing long Covid: ‘We still don’t really know what it is’
“In the fourth year of the pandemic, long Covid is emerging as a major public health concern. However, the medical community is yet to arrive at a clear understanding of what the condition is, what causes it, and how to treat it.”
As with just about everything pandemic-related, long Covid is polarising. Some believe it to be a burgeoning public health crisis. Others think it’s a made up condition that only exists in the minds of anxious women and Cult Covidians.
In my new article for Umbrella News, I give a summary of where the science on long Covid is presently at. In short, it appears that a lot of people are feeling less than great, but it’s not clear why, or whether that has anything to do with prior infection.
Read the full story via Umbrella News:
One of the angles that I couldn’t explore in the article (maybe a follow up…) is the mind-body connection. I know from my personal experience with a chronic pain condition the power of the mind in co-creating very real symptoms in one’s own body.
Last month I shared a study which found that negative attitudes towards vaccination correlated with more severe side effects. I wondered what this might mean for people who have fearful, negative expectations towards Covid infection and the prospect of long Covid. Fear is a powerful driver of pain.
I am reminded of the opening of Johan Hari’s book Lost Connections, in which he becomes poisoned after eating a bad apple in Vietnam.
On a trip in the countryside, Hari is overcome with nausea, exploding with vomit. Thinking it’s a classic case of food poisoning, he asks to be driven back to Hanoi, where he is staying, but the locals recognise his extreme symptoms and insist that he must go straight to the nearby hospital.
At the hospital, a doctor tells him through an interpreter,
“You needed your nausea. It is a message and we must listen to the message. It will tell us what is wrong with you.”
It turns out that Hari’s kidneys were failing. The doctor told Hari that he was in such a bad state that had he driven back to Hanoi, he would have died on the journey home. Luckily for Hari, his extreme symptoms prompted an immediate investigation into the cause, which saved his life. Hari applies this lesson to depression, spending the rest of the book exploring nine possible causes of the condition.
Whatever sufferers of ‘long Covid’ are experiencing, a question I think we should be asking is,
“What are these symptoms trying to tell us?”
Such inquiry will undoubtedly reveal many insights about ourselves, about the way we do medicine, about our culture, and about our environment.
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