The long-term health consequences of COVID-19 remain largely unclear since the virus has existed for just about a year and a half. Available statistics have proven that most people who succumb to the pandemic have underlining health conditions.
However, concerns have been raised about the quality of health of people who survive. Does the virus leave patients with some health conditions months after recovery?
In the report, Fact-Check Ghana explores studies undertaken by experts to assess the effects of contracting COVID-19 amongst people who have been diagnosed with the virus in this report.
The report describes the long-term health consequences of COVID-19on patients who were hospitalised, as well as those who developed mild symptoms or even asymptomatic. It explains the associated risk factors, the severity of diseases they contract afterwards and how prone they are to death as compared to others who have never been diagnosed with the Sars-Cov-2. (For purposes of this study, Factcheck-Ghana would refer to people who have contracted the virus before as ‘Ex-COVID-19 patients’).
Do Ex-COVID-19 patients suffer higher risk of other diseases?
A study by a team of researchers published by The Lancet indicates that at 6 months after acute infection, COVID-19 survivors were mainly troubled with fatigue or muscle weakness, sleep difficulties, and anxiety or depression. Patients who were more severely ill during their hospital stay had more severe impaired pulmonary diffusion capacities and abnormal chest imaging manifestations, and have therefore become the main target population for intervention of long-term recovery.
This study is regarded as the largest cohort study with the longest follow-up duration assessing the health consequences of patients discharged from the hospital recovering from COVID-19. It was discovered that, at 6 months after symptom onset, the seropositivity and titres of the neutralising antibodies were significantly lower than at acute phase adding that, more severely ill patients had increased risk of pulmonary diffusion abnormality, fatigue or muscle weakness, and anxiety or depression.
Mortality rate between Ex-COVID-19 patients and others
Long-haul COVID-19 patients face many health threats — including a higher chance of dying — up to 6 months after they catch the virus, according to a massive study published in the journal Nature.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, it has become clear that many survivors — even those who had mild cases — continue to manage a variety of health problems long after the initial infection should have resolved.
In what is believed to be the expanded comprehensive study of long COVID-19 to date, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis showed that COVID-19 survivors — including those not sick enough to be hospitalised — have an increased risk of death in the six months following diagnosis with the virus.
The researchers also have catalogued the numerous diseases associated with COVID-19, providing a big-picture overview of the long-term complications of the virus and revealing the massive burden this disease is likely to place on the world’s population in the coming years.
“Our study demonstrates that up to six months after diagnosis, the risk of death following even a mild case of COVID-19 is not trivial and increases with disease severity,” said senior author Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, an assistant professor of medicine.
Dr Al-Aly noted that countries, where many people contracted– and will contract the virus– such as the United States, would have a lot of crises to deal with in the long-term looking at the health repercussions that come with the virus. He advised clinicians to administer extra and multidisciplinary care for such people.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that long COVID-19 — the long-term health consequences of COVID-19— is America’s next big health crisis. Given that more than 30 million Americans [as at the time of publication of this report] have been infected with this virus, and given that the burden of long COVID-19is substantial, the lingering effects of this disease will reverberate for many years and even decades. Physicians must be vigilant in evaluating people who have had Covid-19. These patients will need integrated, multidisciplinary care.
“This study differs from others that have looked at long COVID-19because, rather than focusing on just the neurologic or cardiovascular complications, for example, we took a broad view and used the vast databases of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to comprehensively catalogue all diseases that may be attributable to Covid-19,” said Al-Aly, also director of the Clinical Epidemiology Centre and chief of the Research and Education Service at the Veterans Affairs, St. Louis Health Care System.
In another research, the Nature study, researchers examined more than 87,000 COVID-19 patients and nearly 5 million control patients in a federal database. They found COVID-19patients had a 59% higher risk of death up to 6 months after infection, compared to non-infected people.
Those findings translate into about eight extra deaths per 1,000 patients over 6 months because many deaths caused by long-term Covid complications are not recorded as COVID-19deaths, the researchers said. Among patients who were hospitalised and died after more than 30 days, there were 29 excess deaths per 1,000 patients over 6 months.
“As far as total pandemic death toll, these numbers suggest that the deaths we’re counting due to the immediate viral infection are only the tip of the iceberg,” Ziyad Al-Aly said in a news release from the University of Washington Medical School in St. Louis.
According to the researchers, they’re still tracking the health conditions of ex-COVID-19 patients to come out with more results relating to their overall wellbeing and how their system can fight other diseases. However, recent studies conducted on persons who have recovered from sickness after contracting Sars-Cov-2 indicate that the survivors are almost 60% at a higher risk of death compared with persons who have never been diagnosed with the virus.
This report is produced under the project: COVID-19 Response in Africa: Together for Reliable Information being implemented with funding support from the European Union.