Knowing What Long COVID Can Do, Kaine Backs Research

Senate bill would expand treatment options and understanding
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2022 12:40 PM CST
Knowing What Long COVID Can Do, Kaine Backs Research
Sen. Tim Kaine, who has been dealing with a nerve issue since he contracted COVID-19, addresses reporters in January at the Capitol.   (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, File)

Not much is understood about long COVID or its causes; it doesn't even have an official name yet. A new Senate bill is intended to increase research, treatment options, and understanding about the phenomenon, which one of the sponsors knows something about. Sen. Tim Kaine came down with COVID-19 two years ago, early in the pandemic, and still has symptoms, the Washington Post reports. "I tell people it feels like all my nerves have had like five cups of coffee," the Virginia Democrat said. And there's no letup. "I can feel every nerve ending in my body right now," he said, per CNN.

The top end of experts' estimates figure more than one-third of the 80 million people in the US who contracted the coronavirus have had long-term symptoms. That would mean hundreds of thousands to tens of millions are dealing with neurological effects, brain fog, heart or respiratory problems or other aftereffects; the symptoms vary widely, making treatment difficult. "That's going to put a burden on our health care system," Kaine said. Some patients will require accommodations in the workplace, he said, and all will need compassion. "There's going to be a lot of consequences of this."

Addressing long COVID is one element of a plan released by the White House after President Biden talked about the need in his State of the Union address, per the New York Times; the proposals require Congress to approve funding. Kaine's experience illustrates the confusion around long COVID. Most of his symptoms were mild and went away quickly. But when the tingling remained, he had an MRI, and a neurologist told him everything looked fine. But "I know how my body felt before I got COVID, I know how it felt when I got COVID, and it's not gone back to where it was before," Kaine said. He's been told the tingling in his nerves might be permanent. (More long COVID stories.)

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