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Long Covid enigma, experts demand comprehensive study

Dileep V Kumar, Thiruvananthapuram, July 28

With more people experiencing continued symptoms for weeks to months after their original Covid-19 infection in Kerala, a demand to conduct a comprehensive study on long Covid has been raised by public health experts.

To back up their claim they point to a recent study from the World Health Organization (WHO), that highlights the plights of those struggling to work and to have a decent quality of life because of the long-Covid.

“The post-Covid clinics in the state are witnessing a heavy rush. The experience from there is that age and severity of original symptoms seem to be irrelevant to the chances of developing long Covid,” said a public health expert.

He further added,” Those arriving here mostly complain about a headache, fatigue, chest pain, muscle pain, forgetfulness, and others. Also, the most common organ systems being affected by long-Covid turns out to be cardiovascular, respiratory, dermatologic, neurologic, and psychiatric. Considering these aspects, the state should conduct a study on the burden of long Covid and how it is affecting people who have the same.”

According to the WHO, a post-Covid-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually 3 months from the onset of Covid-19 with symptoms that last for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.

“Typically people recover from Covid-19 after two to six weeks. While most people recover and return to normal health, some people can have symptoms that last for weeks or even months after recovery from acute illness though they are not infectious to others during this time. Even people who were not hospitalized and who had mild illness can experience persistent or late symptoms and some patients develop medical complications that may have lasting health effects,” stated WHO.

So far more than 200 symptoms have been associated with long Covid. Current research at the global level shows that approximately 10%-20% of Covid-19 patients go on to develop prolonged symptoms that may be post Covid-19 conditions. There does not appear to be a relationship between the initial severity of COVID-19 infection and the likelihood of developing the post-Covid-19 condition.

In 2020, the state released a guideline on the setting up of post-covid clinics. But since then, nothing much about long Covid was discussed on the public platform. The state had post-Covid clinics at primary health centers/community health centers and family health centers. There are also referral centers at taluk/district/medical college hospital levels.

However, Dr Anish TS, community medicine department, Government Medical College, Manjeri, opined that the state should have conducted the study on long-Covid sometime back. “But still, such kind of study has its relevance,” said him.

The state which reported the first Covid-19 infection case in the country on January 30, 2020, had so far reported 67,16, 247 cases. Of which, 70,434 official deaths and around 66 lakh recovered cases were also recorded.