Long COVID: When You Don’t Collect the Data, You Don’t Know If You Have a Problem

In a good (and short) thread on the Twitterz, biologist Nicholas Bauer argues:

Yes, let’s talk about how vaccines will mean fewer hospitalizations and deaths for a given number of cases!

But please don’t act like a virus that, even in moderate form, can put people down and out for 2+ weeks and possibly leave lasting damage isn’t worth our concern.

One of the many mistakes we have made during the pandemic is the failure to rigorously collect information on the severity of long term symptoms–or for that matter, simply defining what ‘long’ means in any standardized way. Suppose we had said any of a certain set of symptoms that occur after two weeks would be defined as ‘long COVID’ (quibble all you like about the definition, but let’s just say there was a definition). Now imagine we had tallies not only of cases, hosptalizations, and deaths, but also of ‘long COVIDs.’ I can’t help but think more people would be viewing this disease as dangerous.

Put another way, throughout the pandemic, we have argued about whether COVID-19 is ‘like the flu’ (answer: it’s not, dumbass). Maybe we should have been arguing about whether it was like polio: most people who get it don’t have long term illness, some do (with varying levels of severity), and some die.

The data one collects defines the context for policy, and we have never collected adequate data on long COVID in the U.S., to our detriment.

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3 Responses to Long COVID: When You Don’t Collect the Data, You Don’t Know If You Have a Problem

  1. EMD says:

    Have we collected systematic, adequate data on any COVID, long or otherwise?

  2. js says:

    But the latest studies such as in the NEJM aren’t focusing on just hospitalizations and deaths but on *symptomatic* infections. That’s what they are calculating 88% effectiveness for with Pfizer. I have to assume that “putting people down for 2 weeks or more” would be considered symptomatic.

    I think it likely that vaccinated asymptomatic is less likely to lead to long covid than unvaccinated asymptomatic, but data, yea …

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