COVID-19 has caused long-term, ongoing symptoms for some patients. Up until recently, these individuals had been called “covid long haulers.”
Anthony Fauci, during a White House briefing, has recently changed this terminology. It is now called post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, otherwise known as PASC. This change is important because it provides some veracity and legitimacy for patients. Legitimacy provides medical attention, funding, and research. Additionally, it provides recognition for patients and a sense of community.
Names and Rare Conditions
Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic lyme disease advocated long and hard to have their diseases officially recognized by the medical community. It’s about more than validation, although that is important too. It also provides space for addressing proper bureaucratic and therapeutic needs of these communities.
In the late 19th century, there were two primary medical sects. One was focused on homeopathic, osteopathic, or naturopathic medicine which concentrated on treating the unique individual in front of them holistically. Allopathic medicine on the other hand focused on understanding and treating specific pathogens which impacted a wide array of patients. Allopathic medicine is what generally comes to mind when we think of healthcare today. Both sects of medicine can be advantageous, but they are distinct.
The homeopathic healthcare sect tended to not care about naming conditions, as they were focused on the individual. Particularized medicine is important, but without a name, there inherently can’t be unified research, treatment, or care. With a name, standard care and protocols could be developed. Doctors would understand what to prescribe, and patients would feel as though they had a community with others. In other words, the approach is scalable.
Shared language and shared understanding means that physicians and researchers can communicate more effectively. It’s how the very first bone tumor registry was created- through the standardization of a wide array of names that had been used to classify bone tumors.
Being able to share not only successes, but failures, is essential to ensuring research progresses quickly.
Looking forward, this new name for covid long haulers will hopefully provide more cohesive research, standardized care, and a better unified understanding of this condition.
The aim is that this research will provide therapeutic options which will be applicable for at least most patients. Individualized care is still undoubtedly important. But providing a unified understanding of this new condition is the best way to move forward.
You can read more about this name change here.