‘Post COVID-19’ symptoms alerted by WHO expert, as treatment needs to be more thorough
Published: Feb 27, 2021 03:47 PM
As the global infection toll of COVID-19 passed 113 million and inoculation processing worldwide, some experts from World Health Organization (WHO) alerted the health risk over “post COVID” symptoms on Thursday, not common in China but deserve more observation.

Hans Kluge, the WHO Regional Director for Europe, said on a virtual press conference on Thursday that one in ten COVID-19 patients among 38 million infections registered in Europe since the pandemic began, remain unwell after 12 weeks and even longer, Xinhua News Agency reported. 

Kluge said that the issue, which has “severe social, economic, health and occupational consequences”, is a priority for the WHO, and some who should have recovered still have no idea about the “debilitating symptoms.”

Martin McKee, a professor from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, summarized “post COVID” symptoms as “a varying combination of overlapping symptoms, including chest and muscle pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, and what patients describe as brain fog,” Xinhua reported. 

McKee said that the coronavirus was not just causing pneumonia but also attacking other parts of the body including the heart and blood vessels, the brain, and the kidneys.

A patient is wheeled out from an ambulance to a hospital in Toronto, Canada, on Jan. 25, 2021. Photo: Zou Zheng/Xinhua.

According to a scientific document jointly published by some Chinese leading respiratory specialists in The Lancet in January, over 70 percent of 1,733 COVID-19 patients still have at least one symptom six months after symptoms initially onset, and the most common being are fatigue or muscle weakness (63 percent) and sleep disturbances (26 percent).

Besides, 13 percent of patients with normal renal function at admission had abnormal renal function at follow-up. 

Testing negative and being discharged from hospital doesn’t mean one’s fully recovery, which generally lasting three months to over half a year, Yang Zhanqiu, deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, told the Global Times on Friday.

Those patients who are still in ill health after 12 weeks may not have completely recovered from disease and need more cares and observation, said Yang, noting if some patients still have some illness or discomfort a year after recovery, it may be the sequelae.

In practice, it seems that the effects of sequelae exist, but they do not seem to be as prominent as in the studies, and some experts believe that psychological effects may be misleading to patients.

Peng Zhiyong, director of the ICU at Zhongnan Hospital in central China’s Wuhan, Hubei Province, told the Global Times on Friday that based on observation of over 100 severe COVID-19 patients over a year, most of them recovered well and only few have slight problem in lung functions. 

In addition to medication and diet, patients are required to do rehabilitation exercises, for example some moderate sports, which may be the reason for their better physical recovery, Peng said. 

"As we learn more, we need to make sure patients who have had suspected or confirmed COVID-19, who have persistent -- new or changing symptoms -- should have access to follow-up care. This is where primary health-care has a particularly strong role to play," Kluge said, according to Xinhua. 

The expert also calls for countries and institutions to work and research together, maximizing the impact of treatment and improve long-term outcomes for patients.
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