Reports about Long COVID began to emerge from the very early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to COVID.gov, “anecdotal reports from patients started to emerge that previously healthy individuals were experiencing lingering symptoms and were not fully recovering from an infection with SARS-CoV-2. These patients started to refer to themselves as ‘Long Haulers,’ and they coined the term ‘Long COVID.’”
The AmNews interviewed Lindsay McAlpine, MD, director of the Yale NeuroCOVID Clinic. When asked about the myth regarding only the elderly getting Long COVID, McAlpine stated, “I mean that’s totally untrue…that’s a big myth…the original strain of COVID had no boundaries. There were 25 year olds in the ICU dying. Long COVID…doesn’t discriminate based on age or ethnicity…everybody can get Long COVID and really we don’t know why it’s some people and not others. We don’t know that yet.”
Long COVID has been covered extensively in the AmNews. The World Health Organization defines Long COVID (also referred to as Post-COVID-19) as a condition that “occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually 3 months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms…that last for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction, but also others and generally have an impact on everyday functioning. Symptoms may be new onset [after] initial recovery from an acute COVID-19 episode or persist from the initial illness.”
As reported by the CDC, the risk of getting very ill from COVID-19 increases with age, as does the need to be hospitalized, put on a ventilator, or admitted into an intensive care unit. Death rates for older adults over the age of 65 and suffering from COVID are also the highest, with 858,323 of the 1,134,641 COVID deaths being individuals 65 years and older, according to Statista.
Not just the boomers
With mounting evidence that Long COVID was affecting more and more people, myths began to form that the elderly were the main, if not the sole, population suffering from that condition, much like how they bore the brunt of COVID-19 deaths.
Even with the higher rates of COVID-19 deaths among the elderly, both death and serious illness from COVID-19 can strike at any age. According to experts at Stanford Medicine, “[a]nyone can get COVID-19, and anyone can become seriously ill. There are people who have an increased risk of severe illness, such as those with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women, but everyone is susceptible. Staying up to date on your vaccinations and booster shots lowers your chance of infection and severe illness.” This holds true for Long COVID as well.
In stark contrast to the myth that only elderly individuals suffer from Long COVID, the United States Census Household Pulse Survey (COVID-19) (census.gov) reported in May 2023 that “[p]eople between ages 40 and 59 were the most likely to report Long COVID symptoms, while those in the oldest age category (70 and over) were the least likely.” The U.S Census also found that “Hispanic and Black respondents were more likely than other racial or ethnic groups to report COVID-19 symptoms lasting three months or longer.”
Dr. Lisa Sanders, medical director of Yale’s Long Covid Multidisciplinary Care Center, shared McAlpine’s thoughts about the age of Long COVID sufferers. Sanders told the AmNews that “most of the people that I see are not elderly…seeing people in their 20s and 30s and 40s with Long COVID is not unusual.”
It is important for individuals to be up to date on vaccinations. As reported in the AmNews, on September 11, 2023, the Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to include the 2023–2024 formulas. Individuals are being directed to https://vaccinefinder.nyc.gov and https://www.vaccines.gov/ for information on obtaining the current vaccine.
If you are recovering from #COVID19 or experiencing #LongCOVID, you can call 212-COVID19 to receive specialty care, or visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org/services/covid-19 to learn more about NYC’s COVID-19 Centers of Excellence. For additional resources about COVID-19, visit www1.nyc.gov/site/coronavirus/index.page. COVID-19 testing, masks, and vaccination resources can also be accessed on the AmNews COVID-19 page: www.amsterdamnews.com/covid.