SA urged to find plan for Covid-19 survivors who develop new debilitating symptoms
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Johannesburg - South Africa needs an urgent plan to deal with “Long-Covid”, a debilitating medical condition prevalent among Covid-19 survivors.
“Long-Covid” refers to the persistence or development of new Covid19 symptoms among the survivors, explained seven medical experts whose clinical study has been published by the South African Medical Journal.
The experts, M Mendelson, J Nel, L Blumberg, SA Madhi, M Dryden, W Stevens and FWD Venter worked from the National Health Laboratory Service and National Institute of Communicable Diseases as well as Wits University and the University of Cape Town.
“Long-Covid” has become recognised in many of the countries that have recorded large numbers of infections and deaths.
The study by the seven local doctors drew on findings of other international researches, including by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the UK National Institute for Health Research.
The experts wrote: “Similar to acute Covid-19, patients with Long-Covid can experience multiple symptoms that involve the lungs and other parts of the body.”
Symptoms may include fatigue, muscle pains, cough, shortness of breath and chest pain, headaches, cognitive blunting and vesicular rash.
South Africa’s public health service needs to be ready to respond to Long-Covid, said the experts. This readiness should entail availing specialists across the health-care system.
The country has recorded almost 830 000 Covid-19 cases and of which over 755 000 have recovered and 22 574 have died.
“If our best guess that (about)10% of people displaying symptomatic acute Covid-19 do go on to experience Long-Covid, the morbidity from Long-Covid and its public health implications for South Africa will be considerable,” said the experts.
“Although this phase of illness may be managed by a primary care physician in many instances, in some cases where resources allow, a multidisciplinary team could be of benefit – clinician(s), occupational therapists/ rehabilitation medicine specialists, physiotherapists and mental health practitioners may be just some of those who could bring experti se to bear, when appropriate.” The mental health of scores of the survivors could also need attention, said the doctors.
“Stress reduction is important at any time, but in the context of the (Covid-19) pandemic and in the management of Long-Covid, it becomes doubly so.
“Involving mental health professionals in care may be necessary for those experiencing mental health issues that cannot be managed at primary care.
“However protracted its course, and despite the reported remitting and relapsing nature of symptoms experienced by some patients, it is important to provide reassurance that the majority of persons suffering from LongCovid will get better in time,” they said.