More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have experienced the coronavirus in its various guises. For some of us, the symptoms may have been just a slight cough or mild fever, but for others, it may have been so bad that it meant intensive care at the hospital.
Regardless of its severity, early studies have estimated as many as 60% of adults who have recovered from COVID-19 reported one or more persistent symptoms.
So, what is long COVID? Simply put, it describes a set of physical and mental health abnormalities that persist after recovery from an acute COVID-19 infection. Long COVID goes by multiple names and its symptoms can manifest very differently from person to person.
In this brief update, we take a closer look at what exactly we know (and don’t know) about long COVID.
What does long COVID look like?
Does long COVID have an official name?
How are we at predicting long COVID risk?
What are the long-term effects?
- Heart conditions: A study from Johns Hopkins University found that recovered COVID-19 patients were more prone to developing a broad spectrum of heart problems, at one year after the initial infection.
- New-onset diabetes: Another study from The Lancet found that COVID-19 patients had a 40% increased risk of developing diabetes compared to those who did not have COVID-19. Recovered COVID-19 patients also showed an 85% increased risk of needing anti-hyperglycemic medications to treat diabetes.
- Brain atrophy: Data from the UK Biobank showed that recovered COVID-19 patients had significantly reduced brain tissue size on MRI imaging. The biggest changes were observed in areas of the brain involved in smell and memory retrieval. Furthermore, these changes were associated with greater decline in cognitive function.
How are insurers addressing the protection gap when it comes to long COVID?
What we know today about long COVID and its effects are based on observations in the last two years. Many recovered COVID-19 patients will need increased access to medical care to manage their persistent symptoms. And as re/insurers, we should continue to study consumers’ evolving needs and provide personal and financial support they need.
Given the relatively short timeframe we’ve had studying COVID-19, the full spectrum of medium-to-long term effects of COVID-19 is not clear. For Life & Health insurers with mortality & morbidity portfolio durations of 5-10 years or more, there remains much uncertainty on the full effects of long COVID. The true long-term incidence and effects of long COVID cannot be fully estimated today. We must continue to monitor new evidence from the medical literature to understand its risks.
This article was originally published by the Swiss Re. You may find the link to the original article here.
Author: David Lu, CMO Asia