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Published: 2024-03-15

Long Covid Awareness Day – an occasion for sharing knowledge

NEWS About one in 30 COVID-19 infections lead to post-COVID. Sars-Cov-2 is a new virus to humans and we still need to learn more about the long-term symptoms it causes. Long Covid Awareness Day 15 March is an international day where patients and relatives all over the world get involved to raise awareness about post-COVID.

At present, it is not known exactly what happens in the body post-covid, but there are several theories that are beginning to gain support in research. We got a hold on infectious diseases clinician and associate professor Johan Normark, one of the COVID-19 researchers at Umeå University, to ask five questions.

What is long covid?

“The long-term effects of COVID-19, which involve complex physical, cognitive, and mental health issues, are collectively referred to as long COVID or post-COVID-19 condition, PCC. The disease can manifest itself with a very wide range of symptoms. These span from what is referred to as "brain-fog", i.e. problems with cognitive processing to lowered lung function to autonomous nervous system impairment to chronic fatigue and/or anxiety, chronic cough, heart palpitations and more.

“It is usually diagnosed after three months from the start of COVID-19, lasts for at least two months, and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.”

What is causing post-COVID?

“The cause of post COVID condition has remained elusive despite concentrated research. There are several hypotheses that are supported with some evidence, but none are conclusive. The main theory is that the immune system reacts in an erroneous manner after an infection and that there may be a bystander effect on tissues that are not primarily damaged by the virus.”

“Other hypotheses are, among others, that the lining of the blood vessels sustain damage which results in microscopic blood clots, that the virus continues to replicate in the body or that overproduction of certain bio-substances cause chronic damage in specific organs such as the lungs and brain.”

Can you test if you have post-COVID?

“There is no blood test that may confirm the diagnosis, but there are several functional tests and physical criteria that are used to determine if the definition applies to someone. “

How do you treat post-COVID?

“As of yet there is no internationally agreed upon pharmacological treatment. There are several ongoing randomized clinical drug trials that try to address treatment where intermittent analysis has shown some promise. But since the basic mechanism or mechanisms of the disease are not known, it is difficult to design these studies in a comprehensive way.”

Is there any prognosis for post-COVID?

“The recovery rate of individuals with post-COVID varies with the type of lingering symptoms they manifest. The progression is generally benign with an improvement in the majority of people having symptoms after one year. This includes individuals with cognitive impairment, which seems to be the most debilitating form of post-COVID, with the highest reduction of quality of life.”

“However, there are certain sub-groups that maintain high levels of symptoms over time. What separates these individuals from the ones with benign progression is under intense scrutiny and hopefully this will be solved within the foreseeable future.”


For more information, please contact:

Johan Normark
Associate professor, consultant (attending) physician (on leave), associate professor, consultant (attending) physician, associate professor