You'll Never Escape COVID

Nobody expects an inquisition, except maybe in the catacombs of The Science™, where one may hear among the screams: "If you torture the data long enough, it will confess."  Career pressures of publish-or-perish coupled with the bonanza of fast-tracked manuscripts associated with COVID-19 produce remarkable (unsettling? hilarious?) examples of a Data Inquisition.  Peer-reviewed publications establish with precision that anywhere from 5 to 80 percent will suffer some form of Long COVID — regardless whether they actually caught the virus or not.

Meanwhile, the media magnify fears over the mystery of Long COVID.  One third of all infected will suffer chronic and debilitating symptoms!  Niggling details didn't make it to press, though, such as how most subjects were the vulnerable elderly and hospitalized for severe acute infection.  One in five may develop Long COVID, says the CDC, and vaccination will protect you!  Yet the article buried how vaccination can also increase risk of Long COVID and lead to worse outcomes than hospitalization for influenza.  Marvel in horror as people lose ten I.Q. points to Long COVID!  Never you mind all subjects were severe and critical cases.  Long COVID can even lead to death!  Actual underlying causes may have nothing to do with Long COVID, but let that not stand in the way of sensational headlines magnetizing clicks.

Nevertheless, actual SARS-CoV-2 infections can lead to actual chronic conditions, but nailing down the prevalence is elusive.  Government analysts with the U.K. Office for National Statistics grappling with this issue found that overall, 11.5 percent on average suffer longer-term symptoms out to 5 weeks that falls to around 3 percent at 12 weeks improving afterward.  Women and elderly are more vulnerable, including those with the well known comorbidity obesity, itself a "pandemic" estimated to kill 2.8 million per year.  Imagine the lives saved if government policies focused on nutrition, exercise, and general health instead of, well, other things.

But what exactly is Long COVID?  The U.K. report struggled with three different definitions and three different analyses for the condition.  Typical symptoms include difficulty breathing, cognitive decline or "brain fog," chronic fatigue, malaise, headaches, and runny nose.  Yet these things plagued humanity long before the now-vindicated pangolas of Wuhan wet markets unleashed their "never could happen" gain-of-function-in-a-laboratory viral strain on a world bristling with triggers for these symptoms including, of all things, isolation.

Curiously, social stressors such as isolation are linked with inflammation, particularly in the brain, or "neuroinflammation."  Brain physiology is altered by inflammatory mechanisms and implicated in fibromyalgia and Gulf War Illness.  Research into this issue predates the pandemic, showing rising risk for mental illness, fatigue, depression, withdrawal, and mood disorders — symptoms that strikingly overlap Long COVID descriptions by the CDC

Consider these marvels, then, dear reader, chronicling the first few days of our locked down lives, when an eerie quiet blanketed human civilization.  Wildlife pensively explored urban landscapes.  The World Economic Forum ironically celebrated the extraordinary "improvement" of silent cities across the globe.  One may ask, then: Could the social stress of lockdowns and symptoms of Long COVID be linked somehow — regardless whether one caught the virus or not?

A recent study investigated precisely this issue.  With lockdown survivors confirmed non-infected by SARS-CoV-2, they observed increased markers for inflammation associated with physical and mental fatigue and mood disruptions.  Results were consistent across age groups, genotypes, sexes, and vaccination status, but with a small sample size and calls for further research.  Announced back in February, the study curiously received little if any media attention.  Perhaps another link exists between lockdown policies failing to consistently improve health conditions and the media instead focusing on, well, other things.

Meanwhile, bestowing nearly half a billion dollars on its RECOVER initiative for the study of Long COVID, the NIH is determined to torture the issue and its growing list of some 200 symptoms.  Nowhere is this lockdown link even mentioned, however.  Searching the NIH grant repository for awards this year with the terms "neuroinflammation" and "social stress" finds only three mentioning COVID and nothing on lockdowns.  It seems the Long COVID funding bonanza is focused on, well, other things.

Anywhere from 5 to 80 percent of all people everywhere will suffer Long COVID symptoms — regardless whether one caught the virus or not.  Otherwise, at most, about 12 percent will for around 5 weeks if actually infected with SARS-CoV-2.  Conveniently, the $500 million in NIH money ignores the impact of ineffective policies isolating people, disrupting economies, and fracturing society.  Perhaps The Science™ awash with cash torturing Long COVID long enough will finally defeat the plagues of malaise, headaches, and runny noses bedeviling humanity for millennia — whether one has caught the virus or not.

Sean A. Means, Ph.D. is a research fellow in mathematical biology who enjoys doing Christian apologetics, which you can see samples of at his Rumble channel here.

Image: qimono via Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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