How Does COVID-19 Impact the Human Body? Here’s What Experts Say

With over 2.5 million deaths recorded worldwide according to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 continues to spread relentlessly with the virulent infection ranging from asymptomatic to life-threatening ailment.

Although many have recovered from the contagion, scientists and doctors are reporting severe and lingering organ dysfunction after patients have recovered.

But how big of a toll can the complications of COVID-19 have on the human body? Doctors say it can be dreadful.

It has emerged that COVID-19 has led to a lot of medical complications that could last weeks to months after initial recovery thereby reducing the quality of life of patients treated from the virus. This group of people is now referred to as COVID long-haulers.

In this report, Fact-Check Ghana takes a look at some of the post-covid-19 complications recorded by health centers and announced by the various centers for disease control around the world.

A Professor of neurological rehabilitation from the University of Warwick  E Diane Playford observed that the symptoms and signs of the complication may be “singular, multiple, constant, transient, or fluctuating, and can change in nature over time”.

And for countries with fragile health-care systems, post-covid-19 recovery could be more costly.

Weeks ago, Ghana’s Finance minister-designate was airlifted to the US, for what the Press Secretary of the Finance Ministry described as “COVID-19 complications” following his initial treatment of the virus in December 2020.”

The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) in January raised red flags about the possibility of erectile dysfunction among recovered male patients.

In the United States, a joint Medical Research by Yale University staff indicated that out of the over 100 patients, about 80% (95% CI 65-92) of the patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 developed one or more long-term symptoms. Detailing the type of effects, the report said the five most common symptoms identified were fatigue (58%), headache (44%), attention disorder (27%), hair loss (25%), and dyspnea (24%).

Working on the Research topic: More than 50 Long-term effects of COVID-19, a systematic review and meta-analysis carried on a minimum of 100 patients, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Royal College of General Practitioners, Healthcare Improvement Scotland drafted a COVID-19 rapid guideline: managing the long-term effects of COVID-19. 2020 which are based in the UK have listed the following as possible symptoms after treating acute COVID-19 of patients in the UK.

For Respiratory symptoms, a lot of patients have been experiencing breathlessness and coughing.

For Cardiovascular symptoms: chest tightness, chest pain, and palpitations.

The generalised symptoms listed include fatigue, fever, and pain. The long-term effects also take a toll on the brain with neurological symptoms such as cognitive impairment (“brain fog,” loss of concentration or memory issues), headache, and sleep disturbance.

For Peripheral neuropathy symptoms (pins and needles and numbness), Dizziness, Delirium (in older populations).

For Gastrointestinal symptoms, Abdominal pain, Nausea, Diarrhea, Anorexia, and reduced appetite (in older populations).

For Musculoskeletal symptoms, joint pain and muscle pain have been identified.

For psychological/psychiatric symptoms, they listed among others symptoms of depression, symptoms of anxiety.  For Ear, nose, and throat symptoms they said Tinnitus, Earache, Sore throat, and Loss of taste and/or smell have been experienced by the victims

This has been confirmed by the UK’s NHS and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which say although the severe forms of complications appear to be less reported, they are affecting different organ systems in the body.

In a study conducted by the World Health Organisation ( WHO) between March and June 2020, fatigue, cough, headache, body aches, and fever ranks high among people who have been discharged 21 days after treating the virus.

A much larger study published in the medical journal, The Lancet was conducted from the origin of COVID-19, Wuhan, to understand the long-term effects of COVID-19 patients discharged from the local Chinese hospital of Jin Yin-Tan. The six months study revealed that out of the about 1,733 coronavirus patients, 76% were still experiencing at least one symptom six months after treating the virus, although all of them have been hospitalized.

The lethal blow caused by COVID-19 cannot only be expressed in numbers as indicated above. Psychologists say there are increasing numbers of trauma cases at treatment centers.

One such victim of a COVID-19 complication is Michael Reagan,50, who spent two months in and out of the hospital in the US according to a CNN report.

“Since then, it has been a roller coaster,” he said, with ups and downs, new symptoms, a whole series of doctors, medications, and tests.

A 34-year-old, Stephanie Condra, who has also contracted COVID-19 in the last summer has had to almost abandon work due to the complications. CNN reported that Condra began developing a wide array of health problems that but did not clear up for long. Terrible sinus pain, nausea, and loss of appetite, bone-crushing fatigue, dizziness, a burning sensation in her chest, a dry cough, brain fog, confusion, concentration issues, and problems with word retrieval were among symptoms she has been experiencing ever since she was discharged from the hospital.

What must people with lingering COVID-19 complications do?

Scientists say the best way to protect ones’ self is to undertake a chest radiograph 12 weeks after experiencing acute COVID-19 while still wearing masks in public places amidst proper social distancing.

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.

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