‘Constellation’ of post-COVID symptoms will impact global healthcare, says WHO
Far more research is needed into the “constellation” of sometimes debilitating symptoms among people who’ve recovered from COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, adding that it “will impact” global health systems.
“We know that this post-COVID-19 condition or as patients, some patients also call it ‘long COVID’ and some clinicians call it ‘long COVID’, is a heterogenous group of symptoms that occur after the acute illness,” said Dr Janet Diaz, Team Lead, Health Care Readiness at WHO.
“So, these are symptoms or complications that can happen potentially a month after, three months after or even six months after, and as we are learning more, we are trying to understand the real duration of this condition.”
Citing reported symptoms such as neurological and physical illness, Dr Diaz noted that an unspecified number of sufferers had been unable to return to work, once they had recovered from the acute sickness caused by the new coronavirus.
“We are concerned obviously with the numbers of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus that the numbers…just by the magnitude of the pandemic, will impact health systems.”
Although comprehensive data on the condition is not yet available, the WHO official insisted that “these (symptoms) were real”.
“Some of the “more common” ailments were “fatigue, exhaustion and post-exertional malaise, cognitive disfunction”, along with what some patients called “brain fog”, Dr Diaz said, describing a “constellation of symptoms”.
Further research is also needed to drill down into how many COVID-19 sufferers who did not require intensive care unit (ICU) treatment still went on to develop the condition.
“What we know this far is that patients experiencing post-COVID-19 condition could have been hospitalized patients, those in the ICU. So we do know that has happened in patients who are very sick, but also in patients who were not managed inside the hospital, those patients that were deemed to have you know what we thought as mild illness and were treated in the ambulatory outpatient setting; but in fact, they have had complications and they have had persistent symptoms or new symptoms, you know persistent symptoms, or symptoms that waxed and waned, that came and went after their acute illness.”
To promote a better understanding of post-COVID sickness and support patient care and public health interventions, the WHO has called on clinicians and patients to report data on symptoms to the Organization’s Clinical Platform.
Its case report form – which is available in multiple languages - has been designed to report standardized clinical data from individuals after they have left hospital or after acute illness.
“What we don’t know is why it’s happening, so what is the pathophysiology or (inaudible) of this condition and so the researchers are really working hard to get to the answers of these questions, you know,” Dr Diaz said.
As of Friday 12 February 2021, WHO’s coronavirus tracker reported 107,252,265 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2,355,339 deaths.
Regionally, the Americas have seen most cases to date, with 47,814,602 infections, followed by Europe (36,132,951), South-East Asia (13,141,859), Eastern Mediterranean (5,951,021), Africa (2,694,171) and Western Pacific (1,516,916).