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29.06.2022 | Insight

HCPs raise 5 concerns related to long covid

By Francesca Gan

The long-term effects of viral infections are a significant concern any time a viral outbreak occurs. Shingles as a long term effect of chickenpox, multiple sclerosis after an Epstein-Barr virus infection, and chikungunya arthritis are just a few examples of how a viral infection might lead to life-long patient suffering. From the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the medical world has waited with bated breath for signs of how this latest viral outbreak would affect its victims in the long-term and evidence of these long-term consequences are beginning to show. 

Post-COVID-19 syndrome, or ‘long covid’, are symptoms or health issues that persist for more than 4 weeks after a COVID-19 infection. Common issues experienced by sufferers of long covid include, amongst others, fatigue, ‘brain fog’ and joint pain. Some sufferers experience more severe issues such as organ damage, blood clots and mental health issues. 

With long covid now a central topic within the COVID-19 conversation, CREATION.co analysed more than 70,000 HCP english language social media posts globally by over 10,000 HCPs within a 3-month period from 19 February till 19 May 2022 to find out the latest trends in HCP conversation within the long covid sphere. 

Graph showing comparison of HCP online mentions of long covid

HCP online conversation about long covid was sustained throughout the 3 month period that was analysed. Notably, compared to the same time period in the previous year, conversation increased by a significant amount, showing the increase in focus on long covid compared to earlier on in the pandemic timeline. Whilst conversation was ongoing throughout the 3 month period, a couple of issues sparked a spike in conversation including calls for long covid research and concerns about the economy, which will be discussed below alongside other prominent issues discussed by HCPs.

HCPs call for more research into treatments using the hashtag #researchlongcovid

HCPs expressed frustration in the lack of research into treatments for long covid using #researchlongcovid in their tweets about this issue. They highlighted the nature of the disease, the suffering experienced by those affected by long covid and the abundance of pathology available. 

Patient experience was the theme of the calls for research, with HCPs highlighting their own experience of the condition. One nurse, from North Wales, lamented the economic and relational toll it has taken on her life, from losing income to losing time with loved ones while another nurse, from Northern Ireland, notably referred to long covid as the ‘tidal wave of the pandemic’ and described that many are ‘drowning’ from their symptoms.

HCPs discuss comorbidities, particularly chronic fatigue syndrome

A central concern with long covid is the severity of comorbidities associated with the condition. HCPs discussed many emerging trends of comorbidities within long covid patients, with chronic fatigue syndrome arising as the most discussed comorbidity.

Graph showing comorbidities discussed by HCPs in long covid conversations

HCPs articulated that chronic fatigue syndrome was already a big problem in healthcare before long covid, and stressed that following the rise of its prevalence because of long covid, something must be done to combat it, including the need for HCPs to bridge the gap between research developments and clinical practice. 

HCPs were also greatly frustrated with trivialisation of chronic fatigue syndrome, calling attention to the issue that all sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome should be taken seriously, and not just those who are extremely active.

That being said, one HCP did point out that long covid has been helpful to sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome because of the rate of research advancement brought about by long covid. 

HCPs resonated with the sentiment of Alice Perlowski, a cardiologist and long covid patient, who expressed her frustration at the condescension experienced by long covid patients who are suffering an ‘ongoing disease process that continues to assault organs’. 123 other HCPs shared her post.

HCPs highlight the dangers of not being vaccinated and governments allowing mass infections

Several risk factors for developing long covid were identified by HCPs, one of which was being unvaccinated. HCP social media influencer Dr Eric Ding shared a post which stated that those unvaccinated who were infected with COVID-19 were twice as likely to develop Long covid than those who were vaccinated.

Alongside this warning for the unvaccinated, Dr Eric Ding raised the issue of ‘mass infection delusion’, an opinion shared by several other HCPs including infectious disease doctor Dr Abraar Karan who called out allowing mass infections due to the probability that repeat infections could increase the risk of long covid.  

HCPs highlight the need to keep wearing masks

While in many Western countries, wearing masks feels like a thing of the past, HCPs are vocally disagreeing with that notion and calling out governments for allowing citizens to stop ‘masking’, which is needed to aid in the prevention of contracting long covid. One tweet by surgeon Dr Dorry Segev which questioned the CDC’s mask guidance, calling it ‘premature’ and stating that it ‘ignores long covid’ was widely agreed upon by fellow HCPs:

Internal medicine specialist Dr Denise Dewald suggested that the right time to stop wearing masks would be when there are effective antivirals for long covid.

HCPs discuss economic consequences and feeling let down by the government

A number of other noteworthy opinions and statements were expressed by HCPs within the online long covid conversation. 

HCPs highlighted the growing economic fallbacks of long covid, with Dr Eric Ding getting a large number of retweets as he shared information from the Bank of England about the decrease in the workforce due to long covid.

HCPs also resonated with another of Dr Ding’s posts wherein he made the connection between being denied insurance coverage for long covid and the possibility of being denied employment because of long covid.

Finally, HCPs in the UK felt let down by the government in their response to long covid. One geriatrician in Scotland bemoaned her frustration at being ‘at the mercy of politicians’ while her health continued to suffer, and an anaesthetist in England posted about the British government’s failure in protecting the health of its healthcare staff despite healthcare workers’ sacrifice when the pandemic was at its worst.

Long covid is serious and prevention and cure must be taken seriously

It is clear that HCPs are very vocal in speaking out for a better response towards long covid. The dangers of the condition and the potential of life-long suffering for patients have not been taken lightly by HCPs, with calls for better research for treatment and for governments to shape rules to facilitate prevention. HCPs recognise the dire consequences not just on the health of patients but also on wider issues such as the state of employment. As HCPs continue to vocalise this long term consequence of the recent pandemic, CREATION will continue to monitor their online conversations to find out what the trends are in this area.

If you are interested in finding out more about the needs of HCP communities within a specific therapy area, you can register for CREATION’s monthly eJournal, or get in touch with us directly to see how we can support your work.

Methodology notes:

  • Between February 19 till May 19, 2022, CREATION Pinpoint® identified 71,558 healthcare professional (HCP) authored tweets from 10,068 individual HCPs mentioning long covid worldwide.
  • Data for this research was analysed from the online Twitter conversations of HCPs mentioning english language keywords related to long covid.

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Meet the Author

Francesca Gan

Fran analyses the unprompted online conversations of healthcare professionals to produce actionable insights for clients. Her background in legal research provides a solid foundation in critical thinking and enables a well rounded approach to her data research.

Fran has a keen interest in netball and is a big follower of the New Zealand domestic netball league. She is also a lover of board games and card games, especially ones that involve shouting!

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