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Experts at Johns Hopkins discuss possible outbreaks, long-term symptoms

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW)- As the contagious Delta Variant continues to circulate around the U.S., experts at Johns Hopkins University explained what possible future restrictions may look like, as well as how COVID-19 can cause long-term symptoms.

According to officials, about sixty percent of the country is vaccinated, with most new infections happening in those that have not received their dose. Additionally, unvaccinated residents account for almost ninety percent of all recent deaths.

As case numbers rise, Johns Hopkins Associate Professor of Epidemiology David Dowdy stated there is still potential for the virus to cause damaging outbreaks, especially in areas where vaccination rates are low. Dowdy believes although the chances of massive country-wide infection is unlikely in the near future, communities must still be ready to respond to case spikes.

"We need to remain vigilant and be willing to take measures to prevent outbreaks where case counts are starting to increase again," said Dowdy.

However, Dowdy stated there is no need to panic, as all three COVID-19 vaccines are proving to be effective against all strains.

"Those who are vaccinated are protected…at least against all circulating viruses. So if you have a large proportion of your population that's vaccinated, you may not need to adopt measures that are quite as stringent," said Dowdy.

He stated residents should be prepared to deal with COVID-19 in the years to come and adjust to case increases accordingly, noting that as long as the virus is circulating and mutating in other countries, it is a threat to the U.S.

With this being said, Dowdy believes that for every person that gets vaccinated, the nation gets one step closer to returning to normal.

The COVID-19 vaccine can also help protect people from experiencing long-term symptoms from the virus. Researchers, including Johns Hopkins Associate Professor of Epidemiology Priya Duggal, are looking into this chronic state of infection, now called "long COVID" or "long hauler" symptoms.

According to Duggal, about thirty percent of global cases are reporting that they experience symptoms more than 30 days after being infected. This includes loss of taste or smell, heart issues, excessive fatigue or difficulty breathing, and more.

Duggal explained this is occurring in all age groups, most commonly to those in their 40's, 50's, and 60's, as well as in all types of cases.

"What's really interesting, and perhaps more devastating, is that we're also seeing it among those individuals who were mildly infected, moderately infected, some reported cases of those who were previously a-symptomatic, as well as those who were hospitalized," said Duggal.

Research shows symptoms can last anywhere from one month to one year. Additionally, Duggal stated although it is unknown if people who are vaccinated and contract COVID-19 can experience "long hauler" symptoms, the chances of getting the virus is significantly lower for those that receive their dose.

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Grace Gilles

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