Fact Check: National Institutes Of Health Study Does NOT Find Long COVID Isn't Real

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: National Institutes Of Health Study Does NOT Find Long COVID Isn't Real Yes, It's Real

Does a new National Institutes of Health study find that long COVID isn't real? No, that's not true: Nowhere in the study do the authors say long COVID, also known as post-acute sequelae of SARS CoV-2 infection (PASC), is fake.

Lead study author Dr. Michael C. Sneller with the National Institutes of Health told Lead Stories, "I want to be clear, the suffering described by long Covid patients is debilitating and real. There remains a lack of clarity about the distinct cause of long COVID in each individual patient and there may be multiple causes, stretching from the virologic/immunologic to the psychosocial. Every long COVID patient deserves careful, empathetic evaluation and appropriate treatment and referrals."

The claim appeared in an article published (archived here) by NewsPunch on May 31, 2022, titled "Media Silent As NIH Study Finds Long COVID Isn't Real - News Punch." It opened:

A new National Institutes of Health (NIH) study is raising questions about "long COVID", suggesting those who claim to be suffering "long COVID" months or even years after Covid infection are likely suffering from anxiety.

This is what the post looked like on the NewsPunch website at the time of writing:

NewsPunch.png

(Source: NewsPunch screenshot taken on Wed Jun 1 22:12:52 2022 UTC)

Author: 'Misleading'

Sneller says the opening line (see above) of the NewsPunch article "is misleading (at best)." In a June 2, 2022, email to Lead Stories he elaborated:

We show in the study that one of the pre-COVID risk factors we found for subsequently developing long COVID is a past history of anxiety. In addition, we found that participants with long COVID had higher scores on the GAD-2 anxiety questionnaire indicating they may be currently suffering from anxiety. However, we also state that the higher GAD-2 scores may reflect the uncertainty and anxiety felt by those participants experiencing persistent, unexplained post-COVID symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website shows the myriad of symptoms associated with long COVID:

People who experience post-COVID conditions most commonly report:

General symptoms

  • Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (also known as 'post-exertional malaise')
  • Fever

Respiratory and heart symptoms

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)

Neurological symptoms

  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as 'brain fog')
  • Headache
  • Sleep problems
  • Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness)
  • Pins-and-needles feelings
  • Change in smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety

Digestive symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain

Other symptoms

  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Rash
  • Changes in menstrual cycles

In his email, Sneller told Lead Stories that the key to the study is the final summary paragraph at the end of the "Discussion" section (emphasis his):

The constellation of subjective symptoms in the absence of objective abnormalities on diagnostic evaluation resembles what has been described with other illnesses, including chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis, postinfection syndromes described after resolution of certain viral and bacterial infections, and mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. The pathogenesis of PASC remains unclear and requires further study.

About NewsPunch

NewsPunch (formerly YourNewsWire) has published several hoaxes and fake news articles in the past so anything they write or publish should be taken with a large grain of salt. Their Facebook page "The People's Voice" even lost its verification checkmark according to a 2018 report from Media Matters For America.

The Terms of Use of the site (archived here) also make it clear they don't really stand behind the accuracy of any of their reporting:

NEWSPUNCH, LLC AND/OR ITS SUPPLIERS MAKE NO REPRESENTATIONS ABOUT THE SUITABILITY, RELIABILITY, AVAILABILITY, TIMELINESS, AND ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND RELATED GRAPHICS CONTAINED ON THE SITE FOR ANY PURPOSE.

The site was profiled in The Hollywood Reporter in 2017 where it was described as:

Your News Wire, a 3-year-old website of murky facts and slippery spin, is published by Sean Adl-Tabatabai and Sinclair Treadway -- a Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016 -- out of an apartment in L.A.'s historic El Royale.

RationalWiki described it as:

YourNewsWire (styled as YourNewsWire.com) is an Los Angeles-based clickbait fake news website known for disseminating conspiracy theories and misleading information, contrary to its claimed motto ('News. Truth. Unfiltered').

A while ago we reported that YourNewsWire had rebranded itself as NewsPunch by changing its domain name in an apparent effort to evade filtering/blocking.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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