Covid danger: Effects may linger long after recovery
NEW DELHI: Clinicians the world over are increasingly treating Covid-19 as more than a respiratory disease, with patients reporting neurological, autoimmune and cardiovascular symptoms that can manifest as strokes, heart attacks, multisystem inflammatory syndrome, cytokine storm, loss of taste and smell, and fatigue that may occur and last for weeks after recovery.
Close to eight months since the disease first came to light, and after 23.7 millions infections and 814,000 deaths across the world, the range of effects the Sars-cov2 has had on people adds to the volume of many unknowns about a virus that has caused the first pandemic in a century.
“Around 50% patients have residual symptoms post recovery, which range from fatigue and weakness to breathlessness that requires oxygenation at home even after testing negative for Covid-19. In some people, the symptoms can persist for weeks,” said Dr Rajesh Chawla, senior pulmonologist and critical care specialist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals in Delhi, where he has been treating Covid-19 patients since the hospital established isolation wards on March 26.
One of his patients is Achal Jain, 53, who has been experiencing breathlessness, exhaustion and headaches since he recovered from Covid-19 four months ago.
“Four people from our family were hospitalised with coronavirus in April after we contracted it from a migrant camp where we went to feed the hungry. We all recovered, but I still feel tired and have trouble sleeping, even though I did not need ICU admission,” said Jain, a businessman who lives in Yamuna Vihar in north-east Delhi.
While there is no peer-reviewed data on such long Covid, a survey of 1,567 people on Facebook page called Survivors Corps showed long-term symptoms stretched from extreme fatigue to difficulty focusing and moving. While all long-haulers suffered from fatigue, more than half had difficulty breathing, concentrating, exercising and sleeping, while at least 40% had anxiety, memory problems and dizziness.
A study of 110 patients treated for Covid in a hospital in Bristol, UK, found 75% were experiencing at least one symptoms three months after recovery, with breathlessness, fatigue and muscle ache reported by 81 patients long after being diagnosed free of disease.
These symptoms overlap with those of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis), which is a disease of unknown etiology.