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Americans shouldn’t hesitate to seek medical help if they believe they have persistent and debilitating symptoms due to Covid-19, an official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who was notified on Wednesday.
The so-called Long Covid is still not well understood by health experts, said Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer for the CDC’s Covid-19 response, told a House committee. A family doctor can help determine if you have long-term Covid or an unrelated illness, he said.
“If you have symptoms that you haven’t had before, there’s something new after Covid [such as] Chest pain, difficulty breathing, you can’t think clearly, you just aren’t getting any better than you imagined, you have a low threshold to seeking care, “Brooks said during a hearing for the House’s Energy and Trade Committee .
In general, people worry about going to the hospital and wasting a doctor’s time on something that isn’t too serious, especially during the pandemic, Brooks said. In potentially long covid cases that researchers are still trying to understand, people shouldn’t, he said.
“That may be fine in the short term, until we can really more clearly distinguish what defines this. We are in the learning stage,” he said.
Symptoms of long-term Covid, which researchers now refer to as post-acute consequences of Covid-19 or PASC, can develop well after the initial infection, and the severity can range from mild to incompetent, according to health officials and health experts.
University of Washington researchers released data in February that showed a third of patients reported persistent symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and insomnia that lasted for up to nine months.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told the House Committee on Wednesday that people hospitalized with the virus appear to have a higher chance of developing Covid for long. But people who haven’t been hospitalized can also have persistent symptoms, he said.
Older Americans, women, and obese people also appear to be at higher risk of developing long covid, Collins told the committee. The US agency is working quickly to identify other potential risk factors.
The NIH launched an initiative in February to study long Covid and identify the causes and possible treatments.
Some people who have suffered from long-term Covid say they find relief after being vaccinated, puzzling health experts.
Sheri Paulson, a 53-year-old North Dakota resident who struggled to get out of bed months after her Covid-19 diagnosis, told CNBC in March that she was feeling better five days after her first Pfizer shot in February
Collins said Wednesday that the agency had heard anecdotal reports from people feeling better after the vaccination. But he added that large studies are still needed to determine if and how the shots actually improve symptoms.