U.S. long COVID victims seek Congressional relief

By Peter Mertz (Xinhua) 10:43, October 02, 2022

DENVER, the United States, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- A Colorado teen hospitalized since 2020 with unrelenting COVID-19 conditions has become a poster child for millions of Americans afflicted by continuing pain caused by the virus.

It remains challenging to figure out exactly how many Americans still suffer from the long COVID-19 or post-COVID conditions.

According to an article published Friday by Forbes, 7 to 23 million Americans are patients of long COVID, which can encompass symptoms such as respiratory distress, cough, brain fog, fatigue and malaise that last 12 weeks or longer after initial infection.

Data from the Household Pulse Survey released this June showed that more than 40 percent of adults in the country reported having COVID-19 in the past, and nearly one in five of those, 19 percent, had symptoms of long COVID at that time.

Eighteen-year-old Lilly Downs, who lives in Colorado, is tragically getting sicker and sicker.

"Lilly Downs is fighting life-threatening infections as doctors try to solve 'a very big medical mystery,'" the Denver Post reported earlier this month about the bedridden girl who lies in Denver's Children's Hospital two years after first contracting the illness.

Downs received media attention a year ago about adjusting to life after one year of COVID-19 hospitalization. She tried to return to high school for her senior year to graduate and play her favorite sport, soccer. But within weeks, she was back in intensive care.

Doctors at Denver's Children's Hospital have struggled to define or treat the continuing ailments that have invaded Downs' body, triggering other problems such as difficulty drinking fluids, eating and digesting food, severe stomach pains, and vomiting blood," the Post said.

"Lilly knew she had symptoms from long COVID that weren't going to quickly go away. Her heart rate can rapidly soar because of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, also known as POTS. She has fatigue, muscle aches and asthma," the Post added.

"A huge number of Americans are suffering from the effects of long COVID," Virginia Congressman Don Beyer posted on Twitter Wednesday. "This problem and the people it affects get far less attention than they deserve," he added.

Democrat Beyer and Michigan Republican Jack Bergman co-authored a letter last week to House Committee on Energy and Commerce leaders asking to "Move H.R. 2754, the COVID-19 Long Haulers Act, and place the bill on the calendar for a future mark-up."

Among other relief measures, the bill would "create a patient registry helping us learn what treatments and therapies work on which individuals, and educating the public and clinicians about long COVID, so that we can improve diagnosis and the health system response to long COVID."

"We know that physicians are still struggling to understand and help their patients. We know that some patients are in their third year of the disease without a solution," the letter added.

"Individuals with long COVID, some of whom are in their third year with the disease, cannot afford to wait for the support the bill provides," it said.

According to the Sept. 21 letter, the Government Accounting Office estimated that "between 7.7 and 23 million Americans have developed long COVID, and that roughly one million may have been out of the workforce at any given time due to the condition, equivalent to about 50 billion U.S. dollars in lost earnings annually."

A U.S. Census Bureau report from June-July 2022 "estimated that long COVID could be keeping as many as four million out of work with the economic burden of lost wages approaching 200 billion dollars a year," it added.

Downs spent her first year of college lying in a bed with family pictures taped to the walls of her room. For Downs and millions more, while the plight of long COVID victims is reaching ears around the world, medical help remains a distant possibility without Congressional approval.

"I'd try anything, when it comes to a (clinical) trial or whatever, if it gave me the possibility of having a better quality of life, but there's no options for that," she said. "There's nothing for me to even try."

(Web editor: Zhao Tong, Bianji)


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