Documentation on Long-Covid – Hirschhausen draws attention to the suffering of those affected

Documentation on Long-Covid – Hirschhausen draws attention to the suffering of those affected
Image: WDR/Image Festival

According to a WDR report, every tenth infected person is affected by Long-Covid. Presenter Dr. Eckart von Hirschhausen explains the desperate situation of people with chronic symptoms – and confronts the Federal Minister of Health, among others.

Presenter Dr. Eckart von Hirschhausen has already shot three reports about the corona virus. In the fourth he focuses on people suffering from Long-Covid. “Hirschhausen and Long-Covid – the pandemic of the untreated” should actually have been on September 19th. to be broadcast in the first. Because of the coverage of the death of Elizabeth II, the show was postponed. It is already available in the ARD media library.

Every tenth infected person suffers from Long-Covid

For a long time, corona reporting focused primarily on the number of infections and the situation in intensive care units. Less well known are the fates of people who are not in acute mortal danger because of Corona, but whose everyday life is restricted for months or even permanently. There are not a few of them.

Every tenth infected person suffers from Long-Covid and is more impaired for at least three months, explains von Hirschhausen in the WDR report. Not all courses are extreme, but a long-Covid illness can also lead to massive health restrictions, as numerous fates in the film show.

“These are hundreds of thousands of people who have little prospect of improvement without treatment and whose condition often becomes chronic,” says Eckart von Hirschhausen. “There is a lack of systematic studies that result in treatment methods and drugs that help those affected. And there are only a few doctors who are willing to try individual healing in the current situation.”

In extreme cases, Long-Covid can lead to ME/CFS, a post-viral fatigue syndrome. Those affected are often bedridden and suffer from pathological exhaustion, cognitive disorders and pain – the slightest physical or mental exertion often leads to a worsening of the symptoms. According to the documentation, at least 250,000 people across Germany suffer from ME/CFS.

Hirschhausen documentary shows: Long Covid patients are often on their own

Hirschhausen Lauterbach
Eckart von Hirschhausen meets Health Minister Prof. Dr. Karl Lauterbach (l), he admits: “We have had a pandemic of untreated Long Covid patients for a long time (Image: WDR/Bilderfest)

Although we are in the third year of the corona pandemic, there are still no evidence-based therapies for long-Covid patients. Physicians have developed treatment approaches, but these are usually not funded by health insurance companies because there are no studies to prove their effectiveness. And there is not enough funding for the studies.

“Mr. Lauterbach, it’s not enough, it’s not enough,” explains a chronically ill person to the moderator. He also confronted Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) with the problem. Lauterbach admits: “We have had a pandemic of untreated long-Covid patients for a long time.”

The Federal Minister of Health refers to a note from the Expert Council, according to which it could even become a new widespread disease. He explains that the ongoing research for long-Covid offers a good basis for moving forward with ME/CFS. This appeasement is not enough for Eckart von Hirschhausen. He finds: “Our health system has so far completely failed those affected.”

Reportage shows destinies – and promising treatments

Eckart von Hirschhausen fell ill with Corona himself in the spring. He then had his blood tested – and found small clots in it. According to the current state of knowledge, these could be partly responsible for Long-Covid. An experimental treatment, blood washing, soon brought about an improvement in his case. People who suffer from Long-Covid also report that the therapy has led to an improvement in them.

But not everyone can afford or have access to the costly process. The film shows, for example, a young girl who can no longer sit up after suffering from corona. Before she was infected, she was completely healthy. Many lose the will to live, and several long-Covid patients also tell Hirschhausen about this.

“During filming, I was particularly impressed by the family doctor Anna Brock, who herself has Long Covid,” explains Dr. Eckhart von Hirschhausen. The doctor was temporarily confined to her bed, but has regained her independence through various self-treatment approaches – including medication, blood purification and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Some doctors dismiss Long-Covid as a psychological problem

Some medical professionals still see long-Covid as a psychological problem – von Hirschhausen also confronted the neurologist Christoph Kleinschnitz, who holds this opinion, in the course of the report. Kleinschnitz hypothesizes that patients develop the symptoms through a psychosomatic co-development. He explains treatment successes through non-psychological therapies to a large extent by a placebo effect.

The moderator sees it differently. “I’m shocked by the ignorance of some doctors who still dismiss the whole thing as a ‘psycho problem’,” he criticized during the program. “This is scientifically wrong, prevents access to important therapies and is a slap in the face for anyone who suffers from it. New sufferers of Long Covid are added every day. We must immediately invest relevant budgets for research and treatment.”

Post-Vaccine Syndrome: When chronic symptoms appear after vaccination

An infection is not always the trigger for chronic symptoms. As part of the report, Eckart von Hirschhausen also meets people who suffer from the so-called “post-vaccine syndrome”. They developed Long Covid-like symptoms after being vaccinated. According to the moderator, more should also be said about the fate of these people – and appropriate research is needed. This group needs contact points, recognition and support, otherwise future vaccination campaigns would have an even harder time than before.

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (Stiko) recently issued its recommendation for omicron boosters. She recommends booster vaccinations for everyone over the age of twelve, both with boosters adapted for the Omicron variant BA.1 and with vaccines tailored to the subvariants BA.4/BA.5.

The program “Hirschhausen and Long-Covid – the pandemic of the untreated” is available here in the ARD media library, among other places. In addition, it is expected to be broadcast on October 17, 2022 at 8:15 p.m. on the first.


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