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San Diego County surge has experts concerned about long COVID

San Diego County has been moved to the high risk level for COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the number of confirmed cases has continued to rise in recent weeks, worrying experts about the risk of serious outcomes. result of infection.

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COVID cases are on the rise across the country as new variants of Omicron are released. Experts worry that this will lead to an increase in serious outcomes such as hospitalization and death.

CDC’s community-level surveillance system is designed to determine the impact of the virus on communities and guide preventive action. While it’s unclear whether San Diego County will re-implement any previous measures to slow the spread of the virus, the shift concerns experts, particularly because of fears about the long-term effects of the infection.

Post-COVID-19 conditions, or long-term COVID, are the subject of increasing concern about the impact the infection has on a person after recovery, as nearly one in five people previously infected with the coronavirus have experienced prolonged conditions.

As case numbers continue to rise and reinfection becomes a growing concern, experts worry about the potential for increased risk of long-term COVID since so little is known about what causes it and how to treat it.

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“It takes time and the end game, I don’t know yet,” said Dr. Jignasa Puri, team physician with the Scripps COVID Recovery Program at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego. “All we can control is prevention.”

“A debilitating situation”

Experts are concerned about the potential increase in people experiencing long-term COVID, which usually occurs about three months after a symptomatic infection.

Long COVID is considered a post-viral syndrome, referring to a complex combination of problems that develop after a person has fought off a viral infection. These post-COVID-19 conditions have become a growing area of ​​concern given the sometimes severe impact it has on those who have it.

“It’s a debilitating condition, with a huge range of possible symptoms,” said Dr. Lucy Horton, an infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego Health. “In many patients, (it is) a disabling condition. Many people found it difficult to return to their daily lives.”

Recent estimates say these conditions affect nearly one in five adults infected with the virus, according to the CDC.

The same study also found that younger adults are more likely to develop long-term conditions, with those in the age groups between 18 and 59 seeing almost three times as many people with long-term post-infection COVID-19 as those over 80. .

Symptoms of post-COVID conditions vary from person to person, however, some of the most common include prolonged fatigue, decreased stamina, shortness of breath, chest pain, and brain fog.

According to experts, a COVID infection also has a strong impact on a person’s mental health, particularly when a person has long-term symptoms. People who experience these conditions linked to a previous infection are associated with a high likelihood of depression, anxiety, insomnia and — in some cases — declines in cognitive function.

A recent one study from the Netherlands found that nearly 40 percent of patients with confirmed long-term COVID reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety at a three-month follow-up, while nearly 50 percent showed indicators of depression. The proportion of these mental health outcomes remained about the same at the six-month follow-up.

“Their world is kind of rocked,” Puri said. “Most of the (patients) I see at three months, six months, nine months start to show some improvement, but they’re very low on ‘I’m just not getting better.’

Mental health experts express that recovering from COVID can be very traumatic for some, regardless of whether or not they were hospitalized in isolation.

“I’ve had patients share with me their memories of being sick at home and feeling very traumatized by those memories,” said Dr. Arpi Minassian, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego.

“If you’re taking mood symptoms and post-traumatic symptoms, those definitely had a higher prevalence in the first month after infection and then kind of plateaued,” Minassian continued. “Whether these symptoms improve or not after a few more years? We’re not sure about that yet.”

Not much is known about how long COVID develops in those who have experienced symptomatic infection, however, recent studies show that the vaccine is effective in reducing the chance of lingering effects from the virus.

ONE joint study from Washington Medical School in St. Louis and the St. Louis Veterans Health System found that those who were fully vaccinated were 15 percent less likely to develop long-term COVID overall, but the risk of serious conditions such as lung and blood-clotting disorders were reduced by about 50 percent.

The prevalence of long-term COVID varies across waves of the pandemic, with earlier surges seeing more cases of lingering symptoms than recent ones. However, given the unpredictability of the virus, experts say it will be important to monitor progress when considering the potential for serious outcomes associated with the infection.

Omicron transmissible strains

The number of COVID-19 cases in San Diego County has been steadily increasing since May, with the emergence of new strains of the Omicron variant. In recent weeks, even more transmissible strains than were circulating in May have taken hold, worrying experts about possible increases in serious outcomes associated with the virus.

The high number of confirmed cases in recent weeks prompted the CDC on Thursday to move San Diego County to the “high risk” level of community transmission, which is guided by a number of metrics, including the availability of hospital beds and the rate of new cases reported.

While that’s a concern, experts don’t believe the move will prompt the county to re-implement any public health safety measures they’ve taken in the past, as the number of occupied hospital beds remains below capacity.

Prior to this move, San Diego County had been at a “medium risk” level since May, when Omicron’s subvariants, BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 resulted.

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The county has confirmed 9,283 cases for the week of July 3, with 2,541 counted in a single day. While these numbers alone are alarming to experts, many believe they are an undercount because of it use of home tests.

Between July 11 and July 13, approximately 5,576 additional cases were reported countybringing the region’s total since the start of the pandemic to about 857,182.

While hospitalizations and deaths remain lower than previous waves, the county confirmed there have been 17 COVID-related deaths since July 7, all of whom were people over the age of 40 who had underlying medical conditions. Of those who passed, 11 were fully vaccinated.

Experts say the increase in cases is likely to continue in the coming weeks as BA.4 and BA.5 continue to circulate, thanks to their exceptional transmissibility and ability to evade antibodies.

“We’re going to see high rates of transmission for a while,” said Dr. David Smith, chief of infectious diseases and global public health at UC San Diego. “My hope that the summer wave will go away is not going to happen.”

The two newest Omicron strains are nearly complete, accounting for about 85% of the county’s viral load monitored as of July 6 using wastewater sampling.

The prevalence and virulence of these BA.4 and BA.5 strains has caused county officials to stress that people should take precautions, such as getting a booster shot and wearing a mask whenever possible, to avoid infection and further spread of the virus.

“San Diegans should take every precaution necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19,” County Deputy Public Health Officer Cameron Kaiser said in a statement. statement announcing the CDC’s move. “With this virus and the prevalence and virulence of new variants, a booster is strongly recommended, especially for people who are immunocompromised or have other co-morbidities.”

Since not much is known yet about how post-COVID-19 conditions develop in people, experts stress that this is a real risk that comes with the infection and people are being careful given the increased chance of exposure to the virus.

“Long-term COVID is one of the most important reasons why people should continue to protect themselves from COVID, even if they don’t consider themselves to be at high risk,” Horton said. “It’s important for everyone to keep getting vaccinated, getting fortified and making choices that are safe in the current situation where we’re experiencing an outbreak.”

Although experts reiterate that we are in a better position now than in previous waves, as treatments and vaccinations are readily available, the current increase is still a cause for concern given the long-term effects of a COVID infection.

“There are people out there who have had COVID and will say, ‘oh, you know, no big deal… I got it, it was like the flu.’ Then there’s a subset of people who actually get COVID and really suffer,” Puri continued. “These are people who just want their lives back.”

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News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified by knowledgeable sources.

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