Understanding Long Covid: A Growing Health Challenge

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a new condition, known as Long Covid, has emerged as a significant health challenge.[0] Long Covid is characterized by a variety of physical and mental health conditions that can persist for months after an initial infection. Symptoms may include chronic cough, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, chest tightness, chest pain, muscle pains, headache, brain fog, insomnia, palpitations, myalgia, fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, problems with memory and concentration, and exhaustion.[0]

A problem with many long Covid studies is that some of the symptoms—fatigue, headache, and chest pain—are common and can be caused by other conditions like migraine, asthma, depression, and anxiety, or environmental factors like poor air quality. It is challenging to determine if a patient’s persistent exhaustion is due to a recent Covid infection or something else.[1]

Long Covid is not a single disorder, but is caused by a variety of factors such as inadequate immunity, development of autoantibodies, the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 virus, and tiny blood clots and/or damage to blood vessels.[2] It is also possible that other infections can produce “long” symptoms similar to long Covid.

The Workers Compensation Research Institute has described Long Covid as a significant driver of costs in several ways.[3] The likelihood of developing long Covid increased depending on the age of the worker.[3] Around 2-4 percent of those younger than 35 developed the condition, compared with 10-12 percent of workers older than 55. Furthermore, the study found that 7 percent of workers with Covid-19 claims had not returned to their pre-injury health within the time frame of the study and needed continuing treatment for Long Covid symptoms.[0]

Looking at how chronic fatigue syndrome is managed has proved useful in managing long Covid, with the current management guidelines closely mimicking each other.[4] Additionally, it is important to take an individualized approach because symptoms vary and, in some cases, returning to work may not be possible.[4]

Long Covid is a worrying and costly illness that is creating a significant burden on society, with an estimated 20,000 people in the Netherlands registered with the Long Covid support organization C-support.

0. “Attention Risk Managers: Long COVID Is Real and It's Impacting Workers' Comp Claims” Workers Comp Forum, 1 Mar. 2023, https://riskandinsurance.com/attention-risk-managers-long-covid-is-real-and-its-impacting-workers-comp-claims/

1. “Why is it so hard to study long Covid?” Vox.com, 4 Mar. 2023, https://www.vox.com/science/23620146/long-covid-research-study-inspire-bias

2. “Covid snapshot: Here are 5 things to know about Long Covid now | Mint” Mint, 25 Feb. 2023, https://www.livemint.com/science/health/covid-snapshot-here-are-5-things-to-know-about-long-covid-now-11677312889621.html

3. “Workers' comp study looks at long COVID claims” Safety+Health Magazine, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/23651-workers-comp-study-looks-at-long-covid-claims

4. “Why Long Covid rehab must be very, very slow” Financial Times, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.ft.com/content/fb77b3ef-0ad6-4bc6-a44b-fd6e0bdfe846

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