The CDC has just provided guidance for certifying deaths from “long COVID”—the first official confirmation that the long-haul phase following the acute phase of COVID-19 can kill you.
The February 2023 addendum to the Vital Statistics report initially published in April 2020 now authorizes post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), the technical term for long COVID, to be listed as a cause of death on death certificates.
The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was reported in January 2020, and the first death was in February 2020.
“It’s good that the CDC officially recognizes the seriousness of the chronic phase of COVID-19,” says board-certified internist Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, who is a leading expert in treating patients with chronic fatigue and chronic pain conditions. His landmark research on effective treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) was published in the Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (8:2,2001). “The CDC has observed close similarities between long COVID and CFS and, in fact, Dr. Fauci has characterized long COVID as being post-viral Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.”
“As with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, people with long COVID present a wide range of seemingly unrelated symptoms including exhaustion, dizziness, breathlessness, headaches, sleep problems, sluggish thinking, and many other problems. Sadly, as with CFS, patients are too often dismissed by their physicians and underserved by a medical system that hasn’t yet found adequate solutions to the growing problem,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “This suggests a systemic public health emergency.”
A study published in the journal PLOS One in November 2022 revealed that 95 percent of patients with long COVID faced stigma from their lingering illness and the inability to return to work and resume normal living.
The Government Accountability Office estimates that long COVID has potentially affected up to 23 million Americans, pushing an estimated 1 million out of work. Their chronic suffering and the stigma that often accompanies it may feel like a fate worse than death.
“Stigma in medicine is nothing new,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “We must remove the stigma and shame that so many with chronic illnesses are subjected to. Just because doctors don’t know all the answers and tests often fail to home in on a satisfactory diagnosis, it doesn’t mean that the disease isn’t real, or that it’s a psychological aberration. That attitude represents the wholesale failure of our medical system.”