There’s a lot more to lose than your ability to smell the coffee

By Annette Pinder

By now, many of us know people who had COVID who tell us about their ongoing loss of taste or ability to smell a fresh-made cup of coffee, about their inability to stay on task due to what they describe as brain fog, their headaches, and their ongoing exhaustion.

Newly reported research recently uploaded to medRxiv by Prof. Gwenaëlle Douaud of University of Oxford, reveals significant losses of grey matter in the brain in those who have had COVID, particularly surrounding the olfactory (sense of smell) and gustatory system (sense of taste). Although the report has not yet been peer-reviewed, the researchers found that what they observed was extremely similar to what they saw in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. They are now concerned that the long-term consequences of COVID-19 may include memory disorders.

In updating recent information on post-COVID-19 conditions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that while most people who get COVID improve within weeks after being ill, others experience a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems for an extended period of time. In fact, even people who did not have symptoms in the days or weeks after they were infected experience post-COVID conditions.

These post-COVID conditions are known as long-COVID or long-haul COVID. Some people are experiencing new or ongoing symptoms that last weeks or months after first being infected. The symptoms they report include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, tiredness or fatigue, worsening symptoms after physical or mental activities, brain fog, cough, chest or stomach pain, headache, heart palpitations, joint or muscle pain, pins-and-needles, diarrhea, sleep problems, fever, dizziness and lightheadedness, rash, mood changes, changes in smell or taste, fever, and changes in period cycles.

The CDC also points out that some individuals who had severe illness with COVID experience multi-organ effects or autoimmune conditions over a longer time period, with symptoms lasting weeks or months after being infected. These multi-organ effects can impact most body systems, including heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain functions. Although rare, some people, mostly children, experience multi-system inflammatory syndrome during or immediately after COVID, a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, and lead to post-COVID conditions.

If you are unvaccinated, you do more than risk your own health. You are also a risk to everyone because the only source of new coronavirus variants is an infected person. Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center calls unvaccinated people potential variant factories, saying “the more unvaccinated people there are, the more opportunities for the virus to multiply,”

With more than 187 million cases and 4.3 million deaths in the world due to COVID, and new cases surging where unvaccinated people reside, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Everyone ages 12 and older, including those who have had COVID, must get the vaccine to protect yourself and others from the escalation of out-of-control variants.