June 24, 2021

Coronavirus, that’s when you don’t completely heal

Getting sick with Covid-19 even mildly can cause problems for months. The syndrome that is called “Post Covid” or “Long Covid” continues to be underestimated in debates in the early evening, but it now affects many people, it is thought up to 10 percent of those who have been infected from the coronavirus. They are officially cured and swab negative subjects but have persistent symptoms and complaints that have lasted for more than three months, mainly tiredness, weakness, shortness of breath, erythema, memory loss, anxiety and muscle aches, problems that make it impossible for them to return to being as good as before.

The French study

The latest scientific study on this “syndrome” comes from the French researchers of Tours University Hospital who followed 150 non-critical patients from March to June. Two-thirds reported symptoms up to 60 days after becoming ill, and more than a third were still feeling ill or even worse off than when the infection started. The research, published on Monday 5 October in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection, focused on patients who had had mild or moderate illness, precisely because other studies on this topic internationally so far had monitored people returning from hospitalization (for moderate or serious illness) or in intensive care. The symptoms described were mainly: loss of smell and taste, shortness of breath and fatigue and were more likely in patients between the ages of 40 and 60 and in those who needed hospitalization.
In July, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention USA (CDC) showed that 35% of Covid-19 patients had not returned to their usual state of health two or three weeks after the negative swab that had determined their recovery. Most affected were people with chronic diseases, but almost 1 in 5 young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 (with no pre-existing medical conditions) reported that they had not returned to normal health (14 to 21 days after the test).

Facebook group in Italy

What percentage of former sufferers are affected by long-term symptoms in the world? We don’t know for sure, but several researches have suggested that they could be about 10% of the total number of infected. Even if it were only a fraction, with 36 million positives in the world, the toll on health systems and people’s life (including working) is enormous. The Courier service had dealt with the subject with an article published in August: in Italy Morena Colombi founded a self-help group on Facebook called “We who have defeated Covid” and collects the stories of those who are officially healed, but are bad for months. «The accessions arrived and in a short time I realized that everyone, more or less, has the same ailments. Many times they dismiss us as depressed or hypochondriacs. Our problems, on the other hand, are real, but nobody seems to want to give us credit », Morena had said. The group’s aim is also to have a “Post Covid syndrome” recognized, as is being done in other countries, in order to have the reimbursement of healthcare costs carried out and centers to contact.

Specialized centers

In New York, for example, a post-Covid care center has been opened at Mount Sinai: Demand has increased to such an extent that the Center is hiring more staff to process the appointments requested. Since it opened (four months ago at the Union Square location), the center has welcomed around 550 patients. One is also being created in Great Britain network of “Long Covid” clinics where patients will receive a physical assessment to identify any chronic health problems and a cognitive assessment for any problems with memory, attention and concentration. There will also be a psychological profile. The National Institute for Health Research is overseeing a study that includes 10,000 Long Covid patients.

In Italy follow up by hospitals

In Italy they are hospitals

in some cases to take care of recalling patients a few weeks after discharge. Usually, however, the monitoring concerns people who in the previous wave were moderate to severe cases, but, as mentioned, the sequelae can concern any type of infection. “We recalled the people discharged from the wards about two months after the onset of symptoms – explained Francesco Landi, head of physical medicine and rehabilitation and head of the post Covid day hospital and author of one of the first studies in the world on the Post Covid published on Jama in early July by the Foundation team Agostino Gemelli IRCCS University Polyclinic in Rome -. Going to investigate with various specialists and exams, we realized that these subjects, even two months after the onset of the disease, continued to have symptoms, in particular fatigue, shortness of breath, joint or chest pain, cough, headache . What we can say is that we do not find organ damage and that these disorders will probably go away. We are optimistic ».
Also at the Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital in Bergamo there is a post Covid clinic: “Our follow-up involved 800 patients out of the 2,200 discharged (in August, ed) – observed Fabiano Di Marco, Director of Pulmonology at the hospital -: the most frequent symptoms are certainly the lack of strength and breath. However, the consequences are less serious than we expected. The disease does not progress and improves over time. There are almost always scars in the lungs, but we have seen that they do not affect its functioning. The scars of the soul, on the other hand, are more marked ».

Recent memory is lost

Many complain of short-term memory loss: they can’t concentrate, they forget details of the day just happened and at work the performance is no longer the same. “Sometimes viral infections that last a long time lead to a decrease in the performance of the central nervous system. This explains the loss of attention that generates, as a first effect, a consistent decrease in the ability to memorize many events of daily life – he explained to the Courier service Giancarlo Cerveri, known as the “psychiatrist of Codogno”, director of the Mental Health Department of the Lodi Social Healthcare Company -. Since there are no systematic studies on post Covid, we can only rely on other viral forms for which we can say that, within a few months, the residual symptoms undergo spontaneous regression “.

It also happened with Ebola, SARS and MERS

A characteristic (post-infection symptoms) that therefore unites other viral forms: Craig Spencer, director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at New York-Presbyterian / Columbia University Medical Center, told the Washington Post in September that he had similar problems after falling ill with Ebola: “In 2014, I became ill with Ebola in Guinea. I spent 19 days in the hospital and eventually survived, but for months I have had joint and muscle pain. Walking hurt me. The hair fell out in bunches. Then something got better, but not everything. Almost six years after “healing”, I continue to have difficulty concentrating. My ability to remember is drastically reduced. I forget names and details of people I knew very, very well ». He himself writes that similar disorders, especially persistent fatigue, “brain fog”, feeling better some days and worse others, plus various heart, respiratory and neurological problems, are long-term consequences also observed after the coronavirus cousin viruses: severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). In a study of SARS survivors, 24% had significantly reduced exercise capacity and health status compared to the general population 12 months after disease onset. Another study showed that two years after the onset of SARS, over 50% of survivors had impaired lung function tests and “their exercise capacity and health status were significantly lower than those of the general population” . “Although there is still a lot to discover on Long Covid – concludes Spencer – we know that it is real, that the price is enormous, that facing it is daunting”.

October 9, 2020 (change October 9, 2020 | 12:45 pm)



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