The United States can expect at least 15 million cases of long COVID resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People with this condition will experience a variety of conditions, including risk of stroke and heart disease, chronic respiratory issues, brain fog, chronic fatigue, and more.

However, there aren’t currently any accepted objective diagnostic tests or biomarkers for the condition, and it is particularly challenging to diagnose in older adults, who have various chronic conditions with similar symptoms to long COVID.

“No one knows what the time course of long COVID will be or what proportion of patients will recover or have long-term symptoms. It is a frustratingly perplexing condition,” say authors of a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine. They call for the development of a “health care framework and strategy based on unified, patient-centric, supportive principles.”

The authors further urge a coordinated national policy action and response based on five pillars—primary prevention, a well-funded international research agenda, application of lessons learned from experience with other post-infection syndromes, a holistic response to the clinical needs of long COVID patients, and health care providers who believe in research and can provide supportive care to their patients.

“Addressing this post-infection condition effectively is bound to be an extended and complex endeavor for the health care system and society, as well as for affected patients themselves. But taken together, these five interrelated efforts may go a long way toward mitigating the mounting human toll of long COVID,” say the article authors.

In long term and post-acute care, it is essential that all team members are trained and engaged to help identify patients with possible long COVID and address their care needs accordingly.

“Given the myriad symptoms involved with long COVID, it is important to integrate a multidisciplinary approach to care for these patients,” says Hanzla Quraishi, MD, a Chicago-based physiatrist. “This includes assessing and addressing deconditioning, respiratory issues, and long-term neurologic effects. These efforts are crucial to aiding in the recovery of patients suffering from this debilitating condition.”

For further information on the topic, go to Long COVID: An Emerging Threat.