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Long Covid: If Corona doesn’t stop again


Many of those affected by the long-term effects of a Covid disease are still on their own. There is no safe therapy yet. It is tried in a Hamburg special ambulance.

The cough stayed. Days, weeks, months after infection. Then he got worse. Sabrina Harbig says she woke up at night from the pain of breathing. Everything was suddenly too exhausting, even shopping in the neighboring supermarket. For the 37-year-old, who otherwise regularly goes jogging and plays hockey, this is a completely new experience. Her body has been on strike since last October.

Harbig is now sitting on a doctor’s couch. The internist Benjamin Krause measures how your lung function has developed. His practice is part of the so-called Covid Competence Team in Hamburg, a network of therapists and specialists from various disciplines who specialize in long and post Covid and treat patients together. Many who are in therapy here are like Harbig. They feel like they’ve literally been unplugged.

most diverse signs of illness

The doctor describes common symptoms of Long Covid as poor concentration, exhaustion and extreme tiredness. Also tachycardia, pain and shortness of breath. In severe cases, those affected develop ME/CFS, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The exhaustion illness can be triggered by corona and other viral infections. The exact causes have not yet been researched.

Physicians agree that what makes the diagnosis of long-term effects of Covid difficult is the variety of symptoms. “It is a complex clinical picture that cannot be diagnosed quickly with a laboratory value,” emphasizes the internist Krause. It takes time for that. In addition, health insurance companies have so far only covered part of the treatment costs. The therapy also burdens the patients financially.

Long Covid patient Sabrina Harbig

Affected people need medical care

According to studies, about one in ten people infected with corona suffers from Long Covid. This means that hundreds of thousands in Germany currently need access to treatment. This is not yet secured, because there are too few Long Covid outpatient clinics nationwide.

Initiatives for those affected have compiled a list on the Internet. They demand better medical care. Rhineland-Palatinate, for example, currently only has one contact point in Koblenz, with more to come in the summer.

The few existing special ambulances are overflowing in many cities. Anyone who needs help has to wait several months for an appointment in Hamburg – and is on their own until then.

Bundestag advises

The Members of the Bundestag are once again dealing with how those affected can be better helped today. On the agenda is a motion by the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, which envisages, among other things, a nationwide expansion of the interdisciplinary long-Covid outpatient clinics like in Hamburg and a central coordination office. This should also take care of damage caused by the corona vaccination, such as the post-vac syndrome.

Sabrina Harbig in Hamburg is on the right track. The targeted treatment of her symptoms – shortness of breath, exhaustion and pain – which began in winter, is helping her. With physiotherapy she strengthens her upper body, pain and respiratory therapy and a cortisone spray relieve her breathing. Your cough goes away. This summer she could finally be rid of the disease – at least she hopes so.