From the past, present and future of COVID-19

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Caroline Gouveia Borba e Souza and Ms. Ludiane Matos Garcia Sampaio, second year medical students from Universidade Tiradentes, Aracaju-SE, Brazil. They are affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

It is known that several viral diseases have arisen due to zoonotic processes.  Such events occur when a virus that infects an animal becomes capable of infecting humans.  In December 2019, in Wuhan, China, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, endemic to bats, caused the local outbreak of the 2019 coronavirus disease –COVID-19 – evolving into a pandemic.  Despite science’s efforts to understand the clinical characteristics of the disease, the fight seems to be far from over.  A wide variation was found between asymptomatic cases and the severe forms of the disease, which affect in addition to the respiratory system, the most diverse systemic levels: from cardiovascular, neurological and immunological to cutaneous manifestations. Besides, the impacts of the new coronavirus pandemic go beyond the health area, having several social repercussions.

By December 2022, the world had recorded more than 6.6 million deaths from COVID-19.  The risk groups for the disease – which are linked to unfavorable conditions –are patients of advanced age, high body mass index (BMI), smokers, pregnant women, and those with preexisting comorbidities, such as diabetes, hypertension and respiratory diseases. Thus, given the multisystemic condition of Covid-19, as well as the need for prolonged hospitalization in many cases, it is noted that its effects can be persistent. Post-Covid symptoms can range from fatigue, dyspnea, to hair loss, neuropathies, functional and cognitive decline, among others.  Little is currently understood about a specific end of the symptoms, such as whether sequelae are directly associated with the effects of Covid-19 or other causes. Therefore, there’s an important information gap in the scientific literature based on the scarce level of evidence on the long-term manifestations of the disease that must be cured.

Furthermore, the impacts caused by the pandemic are expressed beyond the biomedical and epidemiological sphere, but also in social, economic and cultural repercussions. From this perspective, it is evident that the impacts were more intense in populations already considered vulnerable, since the scenario of social isolation and homework provided the accentuation of existing inequalities, mainly in relation to the lack of technological access to supply the daily activities that before were done in person, like working and studying. Additionally, it is also important to highlight the economic impact suffered by the entire population, due to the readjustment of workers  to the digital environment, which entails the exclusion of people who don’t have access to quality means of communication and informal workers who had to reinvent themselves to secure a source of income.

Finally, the next steps in relation to COVID-19 are uncertain, since the recurrent mutations and the easing of prevention means are factors that contribute to increasing the case curve. Moreover, the impacts caused by the measures imposed during the pandemic developed other problems, in addition to the health scenario, which aggravates the panorama of the pandemic of inequality. Therefore, it is always necessary to remember the importance of prevention, awareness and support measures as ways to face the virus and reduce the impacts.

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About the authors

Caroline Gouveia Borba e Souza and Ludiane Matos Garcia Sampaio are second year medical students from Universidade Tiradentes, Aracaju-SE, Brazil. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) since 2022.

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