Every action from brushing my teeth, to getting dressed, to sitting at the table wears me out. I have muscle aches, headaches, air hunger, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath. I force myself to walk everyday gasping for air at every incline as though I have run up the mountain.
My doctors surmised that I have lingering COVID or what is called long haul COVID. The illness also robbed me of my sense of taste and smell. How cruel, especially when I have the great fortune of being married to a French chef. Yet in comparison to others, my complaints are minor.
In August, our son contracted COVID and he suggested we test. My husband, who barely felt ill, tested positive. I had all the symptoms, but tested negative until 5 days later.
Luckily, I have an expert resource for up to date, accurate information about COVID. My friend, Jono Quick, is a public health specialist, who dedicated his career to focusing on global health security. An internationally known global health leader, Jonathan (“Jono”) D. Quick, MD, MPH wrote in 2018 The End of Epidemics: The Looming Threat to Humanity and How to Stop It that eerily forecasted this dreadful fallout of a pandemic. The former director of Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva was part of Dr. Fauci’s think tank committee at the outbreak of the COVID epidemic.
In August, when I tested positive, I called him. “Over half the population has the virus and is asymptomatic,” he told me, “Or they mistakenly believe it is only the common cold.”
He emphasized the importance of isolation during the illness and protecting others. Misconceptions abound making this issue more confusing.There is so much we don’t understand yet, COVID has only been here for 2 years, which is a very short period for scientific knowledge.
How do we protect ourselves and others when the guidelines keep changing?
Dr. Quick stated that these recommendations still hold true.
- Mask up! But only KN95 or N95 masks are efficient against Omicron.
- Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate - the virus hangs around indoors.
- Respect a safe a distance in public spaces
- Remember that the risk is higher if your immune system is weaker. Even if you already had Omicron and have been vaccinated, you still risk getting it again, because immunity wanes over time.
- Keep your vaccine updated. The good news is that the vaccine protects you against the most severe forms of the illness.
People are sick of COVID protocols. With lower viral levels during the summer months, European countries lifted flying bans and border entry restrictions. Everyone enjoyed more freedom to travel, but it has never been without risks. With winter approaching, experts sound alarms again. If the rising European rates are a forewarning, as they have been in the past, Americans could be next.
Omicron BA. 4/5 variants plagued us this summer, but the WHO has been continually tracking hundreds of new variants. An 8th wave of infections threatens the European continent. A new variant labeled Centaure, first discovered in India and recently identified here, could hit hard this winter
What about patients like me with immunocompromised systems that still suffer from symptoms?
A recent Scottish study, one of the largest on long COVID, found that nearly half of COVID cases had not fully recovered more than six months after the infection.
According to my neurologist and ENT in Switzerland, the low energy, loss of taste and smell can take up to 18 months to recover from.
Meanwhile the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control have noted rising COVID cases and hospitalization across Europe.
Pretending it doesn’t matter because cases are milder now than before is a lame excuse. COVID exposure is like playing Russian roulette. Depending on one’s age, immune system status and other extenuating health circumstances, the results of an infection can be catastrophic and even deadly.
Most members of my immediate family have had milder cases of COVID, but I have lost 2 uncles, (in the USA and France) to this horrible disease. I struggle to fully recover after 3 months; my French sister-in-law still battles complications of post COVID lung inflammation.
America prides itself on freedom, which we all value. But how can the right to carry a gun in public be more widely tolerated than accepting the “inconvenience” of wearing a mask to help prevent oneself and others from contracting a life threatening illness?
Please don’t criticize, belittle or judge anyone who chooses to adhere the guidelines that we cannot afford to ignore.
“Error on the side of caution,” Dr. Quick suggested. “Don’t take risks. Don’t compromise safety yourself or others.”