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Breakthrough needed to fight Delta variant

Americans — as well as other people in nations around the world — are being bombarded almost daily with updates about the highly transmissible coronavirus Delta variant.

Necessary and, more than that, urgent: Delta is shaping up to be a major killer of the unvaccinated, and not necessarily excluding young people, even schoolchildren.

It has become clear that this variant remains extremely difficult to contain. Time will tell its ultimate toll of illness and death.

But COVID-19, which wreaked such a toll of death and serious illness for more than a year, has not gone away, and its terrifying impact is not destined to disappear anytime soon, despite the vaccines that have been developed.

There remains a stubborn resistance among too many people, as far as getting inoculated is concerned.

Meanwhile, also now frightening amid what remains of COVID-19 is what is being called Long COVID.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal in its July 24-25 edition, Long COVID is associated with “a bewildering array of possible symptoms” that linger for weeks or months — even a year or more — beyond the initial COVID infection for an estimated 10 percent to 30 percent of the people who catch the virus.

A recent survey of people with confirmed or suspected Long COVID identified more than 200 possible problems, including heart palpitations, visual hallucinations, memory loss, respiratory symptoms, chest pain or tightness, muscle aches, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, the dominant symptom, and cognitive issues, or “brain fog.”

According to the Journal report, “Long COVID has raised alarm bells for its tendency to strike the young in a way that severe illness and death haven’t.”

What has been dubbed the Imperial study, which surveyed a random sample of more than half a million people from across England, found that among people aged 18 to 24, about 30 percent of those who had knowingly caught COVID-19 reported at least one symptom lasting 12 weeks or longer.

A professor of immunology at Imperial College London said that, in terms of healthcare burden or healthcare cost, “we’re on track for this being as big a problem to us as rheumatoid arthritis, the biggest autoimmune disease in the world.”

That said, research connected to Long COVID is underway. America’s National Institutes of Health has committed

$1.15 billion over four years, while its United Kingdom counterpart has agreed to provide nearly $54 million.

It is the theory of some researchers that Long COVID likely comprises several overlapping conditions, with different causes, and that it results in lasting physical damage to various organs.

In a July 28 report, WHYY News in Philadelphia focused on steroids currently being used for serious cases of COVID-19. The WHYY report said one particular steroid — dexamethasone — is the only treatment proven to improve the outcome of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

The steroids research and tests, coupled with the development of the COVID-19 vaccines, are great breakthroughs in the fight against COVID-19.

Now, America and the rest of the world need another breakthrough to defeat Long COVID, in order to keep potentially millions of people from months or years of lingering misery.

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