The Reality of Covid: Spikes, Deaths, and Long Covid

Category Biotechnology

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This article informs readers on the current situation of the covid-19 pandemic. It also covers topics like lockdowns, case numbers, deaths, and the growing controversy of long covid. This is important for understanding the current as well as future realities of the virus.

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We’re well into summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. For a parent of two young children, that means ice creams, water fountains, picnics, and—inevitably—coughs and colds. My eldest told me she was feeling poorly this morning, and the youngest crawled into my bed to cough in my face.

It’s not just kids, of course. My colleague has just come down with covid-19. The onset of symptoms was rapid, and she described it as "like being hit by a freight train." "How very retro of you," another colleague commented. Another replied: "This is still a thing?" .

About 10% of people with Covid infections develop long Covid, which includes post-viral fatigue, prolonged breathing issues and even mental health problems.

As a health reporter who has been covering covid since the early days, I am still asked this question on a fairly regular basis. So this week let’s take a look at exactly where we stand with covid.

Lockdowns and the use of face masks helped slow the spread of the disease. But even "zero-covid" policies that aimed to keep the virus out of entire countries couldn’t stem the spread. To date, there have been over 767 million confirmed cases.

The coronavirus is estimated to be about 70% - 90% less transmissible than SARS and MERS.

Some of that difference in numbers may be due to changes in how often people test and the declining availability of free tests around the world. Those of us who are vaccinated can still get infected, but if and when we do, our symptoms should be less severe. That, along with the lack of free tests, mean it’s likely that far fewer people are testing for covid-19 when they start to get sick.

Reassuringly, older, non-expired tests do still seem to be picking up new variants of the virus (although it’s worth bearing in mind that we don’t know how future variants might evolve). But they’ve never been 100% accurate, and they still aren’t. (Antonio reviewed a few of the tests back in 2021 and had mixed results.) .

There is no known Covid vaccine currently available for kids under the age of 16.

A study published a couple of days ago found that symptomatic people should really take two tests, 48 hours apart. And people who think they might have been infected but don’t have symptoms should test three times.

There can still be huge spikes in case numbers, like last winter, when the WHO recorded over 44 million cases on December 19. And while deaths have thankfully declined, they do still happen. The most recent data we have suggests that 497 people died of covid in the week ending July 3. Deaths were much higher in January of this year, with 20,000 to 40,000 every week. Again, those are just the recorded covid deaths. The real numbers are likely to be higher.

Many countries now have face mask mandates for public places.

But the elephant in the room is long covid—another hotly contested topic. (There has been a particularly intense debate surrounding long covid in children, as I covered here.) The condition continues to cause lasting pain and suffering to an unknown but significant number of people. Scientists believe it’s possible to develop the condition after any infection with the coronavirus.

So I’m keeping my unexpired tests for now, just in case.

The Covid-19 outbreak began in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.

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