In New York, in Chicago, in California, in North Texas, even overseas, COVID-19 cases are beginning to tick upward with a new variant called Eris (appropriately named for the Greek goddess of strife and discord who started the Trojan War with her golden apple). With the heat pushing people indoors and protection from vaccinations waning, it appears another fall wave is on its way just as the school year is starting.
In this late stage of the pandemic, it may feel challenging to keep COVID-19 stories fresh for a fatigued public. But COVID-19 is here to stay, so it may help to think of COVID-19 stories much as you would your annual flu stories: Even if it feels as though you’ve written it before, your audience needs the information again about how rates are trending, tips on reducing risk of infection, and what’s going on with vaccines and boosters.
Gary Gibbons, M.D.
The disproportionate and long-term effect of COVID-19 on Americans of diverse racial and ethnic communities remains under covered, according to Gary Gibbons, M.D., head of the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Gibbons is one of several NIH leaders who oversee the NIH’s RECOVER initiative — a $1.15 billion federal research project that aims to provide a better understanding of who is at most risk of experiencing long COVID, why it occurs and how to treat it. (The definition of what constitutes long COVID is still evolving, but generally, patients describe it as having lingering symptoms, such as brain fog and fatigue, lasting for months, even years after initial infection from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.)
Photo by Liza Summer via pexels.
Long COVID, long haulers, post-COVID syndrome, post-acute sequelae of COVID — from the early days of the pandemic — there have been news stories about people who don’t recover from the virus in 10 to 14 days. Instead, they are still ill weeks or months after their original infection and more than two years on, and no one completely understands why.
The uncertainty, combined with the millions affected, makes long COVID a trendy (but crucial) topic for health journalists to cover.
In a panel at Health Journalism 2022 in Austin moderated by independent journalist Margaret Nicklas, two physicians and two long COVID researchers presented a primer on what we know about the condition and what remains a mystery.
The physicians’ perspective
Michael Brode, M.D., internal medicine specialist at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and medical director of UT Health Austin’s Post-COVID-19 Program, sees the symptoms of patients with long COVID as fitting into three categories:
- Damage from the virus itself (usually correlated with the severity of the disease).
- Post-viral lingering symptoms such as cough or chest pain.
- Dysregulated post-immune response and neuroinflammatory syndrome.