Study: One in five US adults have long COVID-19 symptoms

A sign warning of the spread of the COVID-19 disease is seen in front of the closed Chicago Board of Trade in Chicago, Illinois, US, April 23, 2020. (PHOTO / AGENCY VIA CHINADAILY.COM.CN)

WASHINGTON / BERLIN / ABUJA / VIENNA /LOS ANGELES – About one in five adults aged 18 and older in the United States have a health condition that might be related to their previous COVID-19 illness, according to a new study of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As more people are exposed to and infected by SARS-CoV-2, reports of patients who experience persistent symptoms or organ dysfunction after acute COVID-19 and develop post-COVID conditions have increased, said the study published on Tuesday

As more people are exposed to and infected by SARS-CoV-2, reports of patients who experience persistent symptoms or organ dysfunction after acute COVID-19 and develop post-COVID conditions have increased, said the study published on Tuesday.

These symptoms are commonly referred to as long COVID, affecting multiple systems and including cardiovascular, pulmonary, hematologic, renal, endocrine, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, neurologic, and psychiatric signs and symptoms, according to the CDC.

COVID-19 survivors have twice the risk for developing pulmonary embolism or respiratory conditions, the study suggested.

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One in five COVID-19 survivors aged 18 to 64 years and one in four survivors aged over 65 years experienced at least one incident condition that might be attributable to previous COVID-19, according to the study.

Implementation of COVID-19 prevention strategies, as well as routine assessment for post-COVID conditions among people who survive COVID-19, is critical to reducing the incidence and impact of post-COVID conditions, particularly among adults aged over 65 years, said the CDC.

A woman receives a COVID-19 jab at the country's largest 'vaccination street' situated at the Austria Center in Vienna, Austria, April 2, 2021. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Austria

Austrian health experts have expressed skepticism after the country on Tuesday announced plans to drop face mask mandate in almost all public spaces from next month.

Austrian Health Minister Johannes Rauch told a press conference on Tuesday that the Alpine country would lift the mandatory use of face masks in public transport and retail sector from June 1, citing the country's stabilizing COVID-19 situation.

As mask requirements in Austria's most other sectors were already dropped in April, mask mandate will only remain in place in the health sector, such as hospitals and nursing homes.

However, Rauch noted that the suspension of the mask mandate would initially be valid for three months, and it is possible to see the mask mandate put back in place in autumn.

The possible policy flip-flops have drawn concerns from health experts.

Thomas Czypionka, a health economist with the Institute for Advanced Studies Vienna, was quoted by Austrian broadcaster ORF as saying that "it could be more difficult to get people used to the masks again in autumn if you say they are not necessary."

"It might be better if the mask requirement remains in place," Czypionka said, noting that masks are a simple and effective way to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

According to ORF, Ulrich Elling, a researcher from the Vienna-based Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, also warned that "If discipline and trust are lost due to the policy flip-flops, you will regret it in the autumn."

Elling noted that face masks have worked very well in public transport for preventing COVID-19 infection.

Austrian authorities are working to drive up the vaccination rate against COVID-19 by autumn, according to Rauch. 

A healthcare worker prepares a syringe with a vial of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination site at Grand Central Terminal train station in New York City on May 12, 2021. (PHOTO / AFP)

COVID-19 IPR waiver

Oxfam America, Partners in Health and other civil society groups urged US President Joe Biden to press for changes in a draft agreement on waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, underscoring divisions over the current text.

In a letter sent to Biden on Monday, and viewed by Reuters, the groups said an "outcome document" reached after months of discussions between the main parties – the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa – fell short of his "righteous goal" of removing IP barriers for COVID-19 vaccines.

WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is pushing for a deal to be agreed ahead of a ministerial meeting beginning June 12

Trade ministers attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, are expected to discuss the issue at an informal meeting on Wednesday after an initial meeting on the draft by the World Trade Organization's 164 members in early May.

WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is pushing for a deal to be agreed ahead of a ministerial meeting beginning June 12. 

The groups petitioning Biden said the text "does not waive even the patent barriers necessary to deliver the increased vaccine production that you rightly identified as necessary to save lives from the extraordinary threat of the pandemic."

And they warned that it "adds new obstacles and conditions" limiting countries’ use of existing flexibilities in WTO rules.

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A majority of WTO members support the waiver idea, first proposed by India and South Africa in October 2020, but some members worry that the current proposal is too narrowly focused on vaccines, leaving aside treatments and diagnostic tests.

The deal must pass by consensus and any member of the organization has the right to a veto.

The groups, which also include ReThink Trade, Citizens Trade Campaign, and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, sent Biden a detailed chart mapping out changes needed to ensure the draft achieved the goals that he first laid out in May 2021.

They urged Biden to push for changes despite EU resistance, and to expand the waiver to include test and treatments.

People wait for their turn to get vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 shot in front of a bus containing a so-called rolling vaccination center, during a test run in Grosshartmannsdorf, Germany, on Feb 21, 2021. (ROBERT MICHAEL / DPA VIA AP)

Germany

Germany's Health Ministry will ease COVID-19 entry rules for travelers from June 1, suspending a requirement for vaccination, recovery from the virus or a negative test, Funke media group reported on Wednesday, citing the health minister.

"We will suspend the 3G rule on entry until the end of August," Health Minister Karl Lauterbach was quoted as saying.

The new regulations still need to pass the Cabinet on Wednesday and will recognise all COVID-19 vaccines that are approved by the World Health Organisation even if not approved by the European Union, Funke reported.

Germany's coronavirus infections have been falling. The Robert Koch Institute registered 64,437 new infections on Tuesday, which is 21,815 lower than a week ago.

Nigeria

Nigeria has received 4.4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from Spain, a government official said on Tuesday.

Nigeria has already received 2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from Finland, Greece and Slovenia with more expected from EU countries. read more

Faisal Shuaib, head of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, said Nigeria wanted to vaccinate 70 percent of its population. It was far off the target but Spain's donation would help, he said.

Shuaib said 23.4 percent of the eligible population had received a first dose of vaccine, while 15.8 percent have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Nigeria has recorded 255,937 confirmed cases as of Tuesday with 3,143 deaths.