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COVID-19 And Gender: More Women Face Long-Term Symptoms

A new study in Spain found that middle-aged women are by far the most likely demographic to be suffering long-term effects of coronavirus.

A health worker performing a PCR test in Madrid
A health worker performing a PCR test in Madrid

"I have to come up with 50 different ways of saying that I am not better..."

Anna Kemp, 50, is one of many "long-haulers," those people across the world who have survived COVID-19 but are still suffering from its symptoms, months later. But the art festival director is also noteworthy because she fits the profile of those most likely to struggle with overcoming the effects of the virus. According to a new Spanish study, middle-aged women are particularly vulnerable to be long-haulers.

Tracking lingering symptoms: As reported in Madrid-based La Razón, the first results of an ongoing survey by the Spanish Society of General Practitioners and Family (SEMG) and autonomous groups of patients, aims to try to better understand more long-term COVID outcomes and ultimately tackle the issue of temporary or lasting effects.

Shedding some light: The survey adds new findings after research in other countries, such as in the UK with the "PHOSP-COVID study", or in the US where patients are actively organizing online.

Middle-aged women are particularly vulnerable to be long-haulers — Photo: Angel Perez/ZUMA

Gender Bias: The research (out of a first batch of 892 respondents) has revealed that 80.5% of those who still have COVID-19 symptoms are women with an average age of 44.

• While age has been the most crucial factor in vulnerability to the virus, researchers have been tracking other factors, including gender, since the novel coronavirus first appeared earlier this year. And men appeared to be more vulnerable.

• By late April, a tally of 35 countries showed that 33 had higher ratios of male deaths compared to female deaths from COVID-19, reported the data-based news site FiveThirtyEight.

• The Spanish study is the first time a study about long-haulers distinguishes sexes and researchers haven't yet reached conclusions why middle-aged women appear more vulnerable over time.

Long-term, short-term: As many know by now, the most cited immediate symptoms of the virus are mild fever, general fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, loss or diminution of smell and taste.

• The new study shows, over time, this same range of symptoms persist among long-haulers, in varying degrees.

• There are also wide discrepancies in the severity and duration of suffering. On average, respondents have been feeling bad for 127 days (about four months), but it goes up to 300 days for some.

• Some 50% of the respondents rated the intensity of the disability at seven out of ten.

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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