Many people may never be able to put the pandemic behind them. They have long Covid, a catch-all term for illness that lingers long after a Covid-19 infection. More than 200 symptoms have been reported by patients, from hair loss and incontinence to severe tremors, anxiety, extreme fatigue and heart palpitations. “Even if the pandemic virus spread were to stop today, we still have tens of millions of people suffering long Covid,” says Yale immunologist Akiko Iwasaki. “That’s a parallel pandemic that’s happening, which is getting a lot less attention than the acute and severe Covid.”
In this video, we hear from people struggling with long Covid and what scientists have learned about the condition — or conditions — so far. Iwasaki explains long Covid’s diverse effects on the body — on the central nervous system, the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory and cardiac systems, and more — and the search for biological origins. Long Covid is likely more than one disease, but without biomarkers that indicate who will get long Covid and the ways each case will manifest, personalizing treatments is challenging. The prevalence of long Covid has been a wake-up call, Iwasaki says, for society to investigate other syndromes that emerge after a viral infection.