The unanswered questions surrounding COVID-19

The unanswered questions surrounding COVID-19

Since the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic which began nearly three years ago when the virus was first discovered in Wuhan, China, scientists and physicians have made remarkable progress in understanding of the biology, pathogenesis and epidemiology of the disease. Scientists and researchers were able to map the presence of spike proteins responsible for infections. Moreover, the global community of scientists and the pharmaceutical industry have been able to use this information to successfully create a vaccine against COVID-19, which does nothing less than save lives. According to CBS News, the vaccine saved nearly 20 million lives worldwide in its first year of adoption. Despite all the advances in science and technology, there are still significant unanswered questions and issues regarding this deadly virus.

The long-term medical sequelae of COVID infection

Many people experience medical symptoms long after their first episode of COVID-19 infection. According to the World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins Medicine, post-COVID 19, or long COVID, occurs when symptoms persist or return after a person was initially infected with the virus. Symptoms of long COVID can include fatigue, chest pain, cough, palpitations, difficulty concentrating, muscle aches, and changes in menstruation in women; to name a few.

Despite continued research that seeks to clarify the progression and course of the long COVID, many questions remain unanswered. For example, how many people initially infected will eventually experience long COVID? According to CDC data, more than 30% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 will experience symptoms of long COVID 6 months after initial infection. However, there is little to no long-term data on non-hospitalized people and their long-term COVID rates. Also, the many people who are not getting tested for COVID-19 and not reporting illness are certainly not counted in any of these statistics. Also, why are some patients who are nearly asymptomatic when they initially test positive for COVID-19 may go on to develop long COVID, but some patients who are critically ill in intensive care with COVID-19 don’t? not ? Finally, researchers and scientists still don’t have a clear picture of how different COVID-19 variants such as Omicron and Delta affect long COVID rates in the general population.

The effects of the pandemic on the mental health of children

The pandemic forced social distancing measures in 2020 in an attempt to curb the deadly transmission of the virus to the general public. Part of that has meant school closures for nearly 50 million public schools in the United States for about a year and a half. Numerous studies have documented the detrimental mental and psychological effects the pandemic has had on the lives of countless children. Social isolation coupled with decreased peer interactions has led to increased rates of depression, anxiety, stress, and violence in our children; according to a JAMA Pediatrics article. According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide attempts among teens increased by 31% in 2020 compared to 2019. In addition, emergency room visits for suicide attempts among girls aged 12 to 17 increased by 51% during a period in 2021. compared to the same period in 2019.

Despite these troubling numbers for our children, we still don’t know and understand the long-term ramifications of these data. How long will children experience depression and anxiety after the pandemic? What will be the rates of violence, bullying and aggression among school-aged children in 5 to 10 years? Will this have an impact on children’s university enrollment rates? Doctors, teachers, counselors and policymakers should do everything possible to support our children and provide them with the resources to proactively address these issues before young people’s mental health deteriorates further.

Academic performance in children

Given that elementary school children learned in the comfort of their homes for nearly 18 months, it’s no surprise that grades and academic performance have dropped dramatically. According to PBS reports, math and reading scores fell in all 50 states among hundreds of thousands of fourth and eighth graders tested through the National Education Progress Assessment. Worse still, racial disparities and inequalities have been magnified in test scores. Black and Hispanic fourth-grade students performed lower in math and reading than white students in the same grade.

These results should make us frown and force us to ask ourselves many other questions. Will these lagging students one day find the level that was present before the pandemic? Should distance learning be removed from educational pedagogy in primary schools? How do educators and policy makers reduce racial disparities in learning in the future? All of these issues are relevant and must be addressed for our children, future leaders of society, to succeed at the highest level.

To advance

The common denominator of all these questions is time. Only time and further scientific research will answer all of the above questions. Physicians, scientists, educators, and the general public must proactively address these issues and work to provide real answers to the questions surrounding COVID-19. This means practicing safe health measures such as handwashing and vaccinations, offering comprehensive counseling for all children with depression and anxiety, and providing educational resources to all children, regardless of background, to enhance their academic performance.

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