Robert G. Fenley Writing Awards: News Releases - Gold
“Among COVID-19 Survivors, an Increased Risk of Death, Serious Illness” by Julia Evangelou Strait
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
This press release reports on a paper published in the journal Nature that was among the first large-scale analyses of long COVID-19, the long-term health consequences of COVID-19. At the time, smaller studies and anecdotal evidence suggested that the effects of COVID-19 could linger long after the initial infection had resolved. This study was among the first to quantify the extent of the burden long COVID-19 is likely to place on the population in the coming years. The study found a 60% increased risk of death among survivors in the six months after the initial infection resolved. And even those with mild initial infections could continue to have health problems across multiple organ systems many months later. Other reports on long COVID-19 tended to emphasize one organ system (such as the heart or lungs), but this study was among the first to catalogue all problems associated with a COVID-19 infection, which can be as diverse as new onset diabetes, joint pain, kidney disease, stroke, and hair loss. The intended audience was the general public and journalists covering health and medical news.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, it has become clear that many survivors — even those who had mild cases — continue to manage a variety of health problems long after the initial infection should have resolved. In what is believed to be the largest comprehensive study of long COVID-19 to date, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis showed that COVID-19 survivors — including those not sick enough to be hospitalized — have an increased risk of death in the six months following diagnosis with the virus. The researchers also catalogued the numerous diseases associated with COVID-19, providing a big-picture overview of the long-term complications of COVID-19 and revealing the burden this disease is likely to place on the world’s population in the coming years.”
What was the most impactful part of your award-winning entry?
The story helped encourage some who were undecided on vaccination to get the COVID-19 vaccine. I corresponded with readers who said they would now get vaccinated and who asked for more information to help convince loved ones to get vaccinated.
What was the biggest challenge in writing this topic?
The biggest challenge was to accurately convey the scale of the problem. Long COVID-19 is not rare; even those with initially mild cases can develop problems as diverse as new onset diabetes, joint pain, kidney disease, stroke, and hair loss.
Contact: Julia Strait