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No, It is NOT "Just Like the Flu"

This page is for anyone who wants to know why I've been so adamant about doing everything I can to avoid catching severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19 disease--even after getting vaccinated and boosted. This includes a change from touring all around the country to pierce, and across the globe to teach as I used to. Now I am piercing just twice annually, and only in Detroit. I'm also declining invitations to instruct at seminars and conferences.

I fancy myself somewhat of a researcher (and one would have to be to write a book like The Piercing Bible). I've followed the medical news and the scientific literature closely as it has revealed the latest facts and information. As the pandemic progressed, an abundance of data and research have been collected and compiled. The studies paint a picture of a future fraught with a high potential for ongoing health problems in those who have contracted the virus, including those who did not have severe initial infections. It appears even worse in those who have had COVID-19 multiple times.

To help make a point, let's briefly discuss the pathogen Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the long-term disease it causes: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, about two-thirds of people will experience a flu-like illness, the so-called "conversion flu," when a person changes from HIV negative to positive. Some people do not have any symptoms at all during this early stage of HIV. This flu-like response to HIV infection potentially could be compared to the initial COVID infection. Yet we all know that with HIV, a flu-like illness is not the primary issue. The real problem is the very serious disease of AIDS that ultimately results if HIV is left untreated.

I'm well aware that there are many differences between COVID-19 and HIV, but I simply wanted to emphasize the fact that an initial infection does not necessarily tell the whole story when it comes to certain viruses. There are other pathogens that also have a milder initial phase but result in more serious long-term health impacts.

We've all heard of Long COVID (also called post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection [PASC]), and this aspect is far more concerning to me. Though now in my 60s, I remain very active and feel healthy, young, and vital. I'd love for that to continue as long as possible.

It is unclear why the virus affects some people on an ongoing basis and not others. To date, there is way to know who will suffer from Long COVID. Unremitting, sometimes debilitating symptoms occur even in many who experienced mild or asymptomatic infections. Further, there's no way to know the truly long-term implications of COVID infection, though it is already abundantly obvious that the virus can wreak havoc throughout the body. I'm working hard to avoid the risk of an extended illness and disability by trying my best not to catch COVID in the first place. The only way to be 100% certain I won't become a Long COVID victim is to avoid infection.

Initial COVID-19 infections in healthy individuals with up-to-date vaccinations seldom result hospitalization or death--from the current variants, anyway. I'm not so concerned about dying from an acute COVID infection, though I personally know people who have had hellacious sickness despite being fully vaccinated. However, the disease is still so new that the longer-term implications are not yet known. As they come into focus (to the extent possible given the duration since the pandemic started), it is already clear that many serious health problems can result. Initially, it was thought of as a respiratory disease, but there is now ample evidence that SARS-CoV-2 infects and impacts diverse tissues, organs, and systems throughout the body. Common issues include:

  • • Fatigue
  • • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • • Cough
  • • Chest pain
  • • Cognitive impairment / brain fog / memory issues
  • • Postexertional malaise (worsening of symptoms following even minor physical or mental exertion)
  • • Musculoskeletal pain / spasms
  • • Sleep disturbances
  • • Tachycardia (fast heartbeat) / palpitations
  • • Altered smell / taste perception
  • • Headache
  • • Depression

In addition to the obvious negative consequences of experiencing ongoing symptoms, there appears to be potential for a significant amount of damage to human health as a result of infection. People may not be aware of this initially, but it reveals itself over time (or abruptly, as in cases of sudden death).

NEW March 2023: Emerging evidence suggests that COVID virus can have lasting effects on nearly every organ and organ system of the body weeks, months, and potentially years after infection. Documented serious post-COVID conditions include cardiovascular/circulatory (heart), pulmonary (lung), neurological (nerves/brain), renal (kidney), endocrine (hormonal), hematological (blood), and gastrointestinal (digestive) complications as well as death. (This is according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Below are links to some of the many scientific research studies that demonstrate the range of conditions and the seriousness of these issues. Millions of people have been affected and continue to suffer ongoing illness, and in some cases they are entirely debilitated by their symptoms. Thousands of additional studies exist, and plenty of others will be published as time goes on. A wonderful site,, also has links to an abundance of relevant research and information.

• COVID-19 and its long-term sequelae: what do we know in 2023? The cumulative prevalence of long‑COVID seems to range between 9% - 63%, and is up to 6‑fold higher than that of similar post-viral infection conditions.
• One-Year Adverse Outcomes Among US Adults With Post–COVID-19 Condition vs Those Without COVID-19 in a Large Commercial Insurance Database (March 2023) (Increased rates of stroke and other adverse outcomes over a 1-year period.
• Immune cell population and cytokine profiling suggest age dependent differences in the response to SARS-CoV-2 infection (February 2023) In the age 30–39 year age range, an increased exhausted T-cell response and a decrease in other immune factors was noted.
• COVID-19 patients retain elevated risk of death for at least 18 months after infection (January 2023) COVID-19 is associated with higher risks of cardiovascular disease and death in the short- and long-term,
• The Epidemic of COVID-19-Related Erectile Dysfunction (2021) and COVID-19 Infection Is Associated With New Onset Erectile Dysfunction(2022)
• Men infected with COVID have one third less sperm compared to uninfected men over 3 months later. Of 100 men infected but not hospitalized, four had no viable sperm. Of 100 men not infected, none had this condition. (Note that vaccination had no effect on sperm counts).
•  Excess risk for acute myocardial infarction mortality [dying of a heart attack--most pronounced for those aged 25–44 years]
• Post–COVID-19 Symptoms 2 Years After SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Hospitalized vs Nonhospitalized Patients [symptoms can remain present after 2 years regardless of initial severity of infection] (December 2022)
Accelerated biological aging in COVID-19 patients (April 2022)
• More than 50 long-term effects of COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis
• International Multi-Center Study Confirms Stroke Risk in Younger Healthier COVID-19 Patients 
• SARS-CoV-2 and Stroke  
• Silent Killer: Debilitating Strokes Affecting Young Adults Diagnosed with COVID-19
• Many effects of long COVID 
• COVID-19 and Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss: A Systematic Review
• Respiratory Complications after COVID-19
• COVID Long-Haulers: Gastrointestinal System 
• COVID-19 infection is a major cause of acute telogen effluvium (hair loss!)
• Associations between persistent symptoms after mild COVID-19 and long-term health status, quality of life, and psychological distress (In participants with mild acute COVID-19, the burden of persistent symptoms was significantly associated with poorer long-term health status, poorer quality of life, and psychological distress.) 
• New Onset of Autoimmune Diseases Following COVID-19 Diagnosis
• Defective antifungal immunity in patients with COVID-19 (November 2022)
• Risk of Incident [new onset] Diabetes After COVID-19 Infection (a 64% greater risk!!!!)
The COVID Heart—One Year After SARS-CoV-2 Infection, Patients Have an Array of Increased Cardiovascular Risks 
• Cognitive dysfunction following COVID-19 infection
• SARS-CoV-2 is associated with changes in brain structure
• Fatigue and cognitive impairment in Post-COVID-19 Syndrome
• Neurological manifestations of post-COVID-19 syndrome
• Altered lung physiology post COVID-19 infection broadly equivalent to that associated with 15 years of aging
• Long-term neurologic outcomes of COVID-19
• Long-term cardiac pathology in individuals with mild initial COVID-19 illness
• Clinical Characteristics and Mechanisms of Musculoskeletal Pain in Long COVID (pain in the muscles and joints, muscle weakness and skeletal muscle damage)
• COVID-19 and celiac disease: A pathogenetic hypothesis for a celiac outbreak (Genetically predisposed patients could be more likely to develop celiac disease following SARS-CoV-2 infection)
• Long-term cardiovascular outcomes of COVID-19
• Prognosis and persistence of smell and taste dysfunction in patients with covid-19
• Low Cardiorespiratory Fitness Post-COVID-19
• Long COVID endotheliopathy: (a combination of dysfunction of endothelium [the inner cellular lining of the blood vessels], aberrant coagulopathy [excessive clotting and microclots], and inflammation
• Endothelial dysfunction in COVID-19: an overview of evidence, biomarkers, mechanisms and potential therapies (October 2022)
• Post–COVID-19 Symptoms and Conditions Among Children and Adolescents (children and teens who’ve had COVID are at greater risk for blood clots, heart problems, kidney failure, and Type 1 diabetes)

Other articles and information: 
• COVID-19 and Traffic Accidents: Is a COVID-19 Personality Disorder Caused by Viral Damage to the Prefrontal Cortex? (December 2022) Discusses brain damage from COVID infection and affect on personality--Really interesting! 
• Long COVID stemmed from mild cases of COVID-19 in most people (January 2023) A staggering 90% of people living with long COVID initially experienced only mild illness (Study data from 54 studies reporting on over 1 million people from 22 countries.)
According to CDC data (as of November 2022), over 15% of people in their study still experienced symptoms a one after COVID infection
• Each COVID-19 Reinfection Increases Health Risks
• How Long Covid Reshapes the Brain
• Even Mild COVID Can Increase the Risk of Heart Problems
• Long Covid is keeping as many as 4 million people out of work
• Even mild COVID-19 can cause your brain to shrink
• Long COVID risk falls only slightly after vaccination
• People infected with COVID had a 77% higher risk of developing memory problems
• Brain fog is a disorder of executive function that makes basic cognitive tasks absurdly hard
• Are COVID-19-Linked Arrhythmias Caused by Viral Damage to the Heart’s Pacemaker Cells?
• Heart-disease risk soars after COVID — even with a mild case
• COVID and the Heart: It Spares No One
• Lung Dysfunction in Children and Teens

Note that a lot more people died of COVID than the "official" counts. The World Health Organization estimates in 2020-2021 there were 14.83 million excess deaths globally. That's 2.74 times more than the 5.42 million reported as being due to COVID-19. Further, global life expectancy for that period has fallen two years in a row, for the first time since 1959. (As of March 2023 the "official" worldwide COVID death total is 6.86 million.)

Finally, for those who doubt the usefulness of vaccination, this study shows that hospitalization rates were 3.5 to 17.7 times higher among unvaccinated adults. Vaccinated adults who were hospitalized tended to be older and were more likely to have three or more underlying medical conditions.

And anyone using the risk of myocarditis to avoid vaccination should be aware of this study which showed the risk of myocarditis from COVID is 7 times higher than from vaccines.