Long-term effects of virus become clearer

More than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world set a single-day record for new cases of the coronavirus and a major cluster in Victoria is threatening that state’s easing of restrictions. But it is new discoveries about the deadly virus that are perhaps most disturbing.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the world is entering “a new and dangerous phase” as stay-at-home orders are lifted and warns that the pandemic is “accelerating” in many countries.

If anyone needed further cause to be extra cautious and follow all pandemic guidelines, it is news from health officials in London who say that one in three patients who recovers from COVID-19 could be harmed for life.

The researchers cite long-term damage to patients’ lungs, as well as chronic fatigue and psychological disturbances.

The UK medical experts say there is growing evidence that the virus can cause persistent or even permanent trauma, including impairment to the brain and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The head of the new National Health Service (NHS) centre for COVID-19 recovery says that around 30 per cent of patients who recover from COVID-19 may be left with damaged and scarred lung tissue.

Dr Hilary Floyd, clinical director at the NHS Seacole Centre in Surrey, said she was concerned about how little was known about the long-term consequences of the infection. She added that she had been shocked by the number of otherwise healthy people in their 40s and 50s who were facing long-term fatigue and disability after contracting the virus.

“These are people who were independent, they might be running their own business, going to the gym, swimming, active – now they are at the point they can’t get out of bed,” she said.

The NHS has told GPs and community services that up to half of patients treated in intensive care units for the virus may be left with “persistent physical, cognitive and psychological impairments” including chronic fatigue.

The NHS has opened its first hospital dedicated to helping COVID-19 patients recover from the long-term effects. Its clinical director said loss of mobility and chronic fatigue were two of the most common problems seen in patients who had come through COVID-19, with physiotherapy one of the main treatments for recovery.

Professor Peter Openshaw, an immunologist at Imperial College in London and who sits on a specialist government panel dubbed NerveTag, said the long-term effects of COVID were only beginning to become clear.

“We are quite alarmed about the number of people needing follow-up treatment after being hospitalised,” he said. “Many are suffering quite prolonged effects, particularly those who had severe disease.”

Prof. Openshaw said there was particular concern for patients who suffered extensive blood clots, which can cut off blood supply to parts of the lungs, leading to a slow recovery.

Others were found to be suffering “chronic scarring pneumonia” due to inflammation of the lungs, he said.

Meanwhile in Australia, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said a small number of people diagnosed with coronavirus had pretended they did not test positive.

“We’ve got a really good handle on where it (outbreak) is coming from, and it is, principally, families, larger families often, making decisions that are not in accordance with the rules and are not the right thing to do,” he said.

“Please do the right thing. If you don’t, then every single Victorian will pay a really significant price for that.”

You can check Health Direct’s Coronavirus Symptom Checker if you have concerns or book a telehealth consultation with your GP.

Does it seem that the more we know about COVID-19, the more we don’t want to know? Are you being super cautious when going out in public?

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Written by Janelle Ward


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