Long COVID: An Autoimmune Disease?

November 1, 2020

There is evidence that some people may continue to experience lingering symptoms referred to as “Long COVID” after an acute episode of COVID-19. And even though it may be too early to know for sure if there will be long-term related disease or other ailments linked to having had this virus; there is enough reason to suspect that the “long term” symptoms noted in numerous patients post COVID “recovery” could become chronic. I will throw out a hypothesis: one could almost say that Long COVID or as I call it “Post-COVID-19 Syndrome” is an autoimmune disease where the antibodies that develop after an acute infection target the body instead of the virus. It's a scary thought I know, what is scarier is for us to ignore the possibility that this virus is here to stay, but perhaps in different forms of other diseases.   

Recovery from an acute episode of COVID-19 isn't the same for everyone. In clinical encounters and on Twitter, a growing number of patients report lingering symptoms ranging from mild issues, such as continued loss of taste or smell, to more serious ones, such as heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, chronic fatigue, cognitive difficulties, body rashes or recurring fevers. Whether these symptoms eventually resolve or whether they signal permanent damage from the virus remains unknown.

In any regard, patients, healthcare providers, payers and public health agencies need a ICD-10 code (diagnosis code) for “Post-COVID-19 Syndrome”. As with diagnosis codes for acute COVID-19, testing and treatment, copays, coinsurance, and deductibles should be waived under a renewal and expansion of the CARES ACT so Post-COVID-19 Syndrome is treated the same as acute COVID-19. 

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