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The Unseen Wave: The Enduring Effects of COVID-19 and How we can Fight Back

Recently, several patients reached out to seek medical assistance for respiratory and flu-like symptoms, such as sore throat, fever, muscle ache, and general malaise. Among those were a family with a two-month-old infant displaying fever, prompting a visit to the emergency room for a thorough investigation; an older teen who had just arrived at her university campus, and an elderly couple who had returned from vacation. All three tested positive for COVID-19, highlighting the very real and lasting presence of this virus.

As much as we’d like to leave it in 2020, COVID-19 continues to impact individuals from all walks of life.

The Reality of Post-Pandemic Life: The Virus Isn’t Gone

While the pandemic is effectively over, the virus isn’t gone. Even though transmission rates are lower, the coronavirus is still one of the most common respiratory pathogens in the world. Tens of thousands of people across Canada were infected in 2023. Nationally, the weekly number of COVID-19 cases jumped from around 3500 at the start of September to over 6500 by the month’s end. This was a major increase from just 1000 cases per week in the middle of the summer.

CDC data from the United States (and similarly reported in Canada) shows that through September 2023, hospitalizations, critical care admissions, and deaths are all on the rise. The number of tests performed, and the percentage of those that are positive, have also increased. The COVID-19 viral load seen in monitored wastewater treatment plants is also growing, following a period of relatively low and stable loads during the summer months. Furthermore, outbreaks are once again being reported in acute care and long-term care facilities. All of the above was reported even before the new infectious variant BA.2.86 arrived and began to take hold in our communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic was extremely stressful, and for some, a traumatizing event. 3 years of unpredictability, uncertainty, and uncontrollability took its toll on many of us, and it is no surprise that we are tired of wearing masks, “social distancing,” and getting another booster vaccine. We desperately want our lives to return to where they were before the pandemic. This is a normal and warranted feeling.

Long-Haul COVID in Children and Adolescents

It’s important to acknowledge that the COVID-19 virus persists and can cause significant challenges for many individuals. The impact of reduced testing and public reporting may result in a silent wave of cases. The particular concern is Long-Haul COVID Syndrome. Initially, children had milder infections, but recent data shows that unfortunately it is possible for them to suffer from their infections in the long term. One fifth (16.2% of those up to age 19) with COVID-19 continue to present with at least one persistent symptom beyond three months after the infection. 

Symptoms can take many forms, including:


    • fatigue susceptibility, exhaustion, and even chronic fatigue

    • neurological issues

    • decreased endurance

    • fainting

    • radiating chest pain

    • autonomic dysfunction (inability of the body to maintain its blood pressure or heart rate)

    • chronic pain

Any of these symptoms can have a significant impact on a young person’s quality of life and their family’s. A recent study highlighted a higher incidence of type 1 diabetes among children and adolescents during the pandemic compared to before. An 8-year-old Harrison client experienced such severe fatigue months after the family’s recovery from COVID-19, it hindered her participation in activities she enjoys, such as summer camps.

Regardless of age, health status, vaccination status, or pre-existing conditions, you can be affected. Studies suggest vaccines do reduce the risk of developing Long-Haul COVID from 50% to 15%, however they are not failsafe. The U.K.’s Office for National Statistics recently reported that roughly 4.5% of triple-vaccinated adults developed Long-Haul COVID after being infected by the Omicron variant in 2022.  And while some people get better in a matter of months, recent studies and many patient experiences show symptoms can last years.

The Interplay of Factors: How COVID Can Trigger Other Health Issues

It is also possible for the infection to prompt a reawakening of other viruses, induce tissue damage, or lead to disruptions in the microbiome. This intricate interplay of factors has the potential to disturb the immune system, heighten the vulnerability to other ailments, and prolong lingering COVID symptoms. Experts warn that Long-Haul COVID could potentially become a significant disabling event in history. Currently, there is no known cure, so the most effective prevention is to avoid infection altogether.

The Power of Masking: A Simple yet Effective Protection Strategy

At Harrison Healthcare, we care about prevention.

Since research has not yet determined a predictor of who will develop these troublesome and potentially debilitating long COVID symptoms, we advise that with the return of the respiratory viruses this fall and winter, we start masking up with renewed energy. We encourage you to start using N95 masks (if you have access to them) when you come to our clinic, or else we can provide you with a single-use mask on arrival.

Practicing this prevention strategy will help us protect each other. This is especially important for the people we care about who are young or immunocompromised and at a higher risk of long-lasting, life-altering issues. We encourage you to “mask-up” in crowded spaces like a busy shopping center. Wearing a mask will have the added benefit of protecting you from other respiratory viruses common in the fall and winter, such as RSV and rhinovirus. This simple measure proved to be extremely effective during the pandemic, so let’s utilize it once again to keep ourselves and others as healthy as possible.


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  : 604-753-6000

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: Suite 800 – 900 West Hastings St

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We would like to acknowledge with gratitude that we operate on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations in Vancouver, and of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Mountain Nakoda Nations, and the Métis Nation (Region 3) in Calgary. With appreciation, we recognize that these lands have been stewarded by them since time immemorial.

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