IMAGE DESCRIPTION: An image of a lady in bed to represent a relapse of ME/CFS or Long Covid with a circular image of Covid spike proteins. The title reads: Medscape: Cold, Flu Virus Can Trigger Long Covid Relapses. The ME Association Logo (bottom right)

Medscape: Cold, Flu Virus Can Trigger Long Covid Relapses

People who have recovered from Long Covid can suffer relapses or flare-ups from new viral infections — not just from COVID but from cold, flu, and other viral pathogens, researchers have found.

By Tinker Ready


In some cases, they may be experiencing what researchers call viral interference, something also experienced by people with HIV and other infections associated with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

Clinical studies on the issue are limited, but patients, doctors, and researchers report many people who previously had Long Covid have developed recurring symptoms after consequent viral infections.

Anecdotally, these flare-ups occur more commonly in patients with Long covid with autonomic dysfunction — severe dizziness when standing up — and other symptoms of ME/CFS.

Alba Azola, MD, a Johns Hopkins Medicine rehabilitation specialist who works with patients with long COVID and other fatiguing illnesses.

Patients can “recover (or feel recovered) from Long Covid until the next immune challenge — another COVID infection, flu infection, pregnancy, food poisoning (all examples we have seen in the clinic) — and experience a significant flare-up of your initial COVID infection.”

David Putrino, PhD, is director of Rehabilitation Innovation for the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.

MEA Comment

It is well recognised that new infections are a very common cause of an exacerbation of symptoms, or sometimes a more prolonged relapse of ME/CFS.

So, it comes as no surprise to find that researchers have concluded that the same situation applies to people with Long Covid.

The ME Association has an information leaflet covering the causes and management of exacerbations and relapses in ME/CFS. People with Long Covid will also find this information helpful.

Dr Charles Shepherd,
Trustee and
Hon. Medical Adviser
to the ME Association.
Member of the 2018-2021 NICE Guideline Committee.
Member of the 2002 Independent Working Group on ME/CFS.

Dr Charles Shepherd
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