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When looking at impact of coronavirus, we can’t forget the long-term health effects

the emergence of symptoms down the track is a reminder of why it’s important to take precautions

 ABC Health & Wellbeing, By health reporter Olivia Willis-28 Sept 20,  It can be tempting to think of COVID-19 patients as falling into one of two categories.

Category 1: young, otherwise healthy individuals who experience mild symptoms and recover at home.

Category 2: older people and people with pre-existing health conditions who become seriously ill and go to hospital.

While it’s true that there is a spectrum of risk when it comes to severity of disease, it’s become increasingly clear that not everyone fits neatly into one of these categories.

For many people, the labels of “mild” or “severe”, “sick” or “recovered” are blurred by their experience of ongoing, sometimes debilitating symptoms weeks or months after they first were infected.

Both anecdotal reports and a growing body of research suggest persistent fatigue, breathlessness, “brain fog” and muscle aches, among other symptoms, are plaguing people some time after their infection has cleared.

So what do we know about the lingering health effects of coronavirus, and how concerned should we be?

Health effects can linger for months

It is difficult to say what proportion of people with COVID-19 face medium- to long-term health impacts given how new the virus still is, said Kirsty Short, a virologist at the University of Queensland.

“It’s definitely happening, I just don’t think we have a grip on how common it is,” Dr Short said.

In July, researchers in Italy found almost 90 per cent of patients with acute infections were still experiencing symptoms two months later.

Research from the US and UK, following a much broader group of people affected by COVID-19, suggests symptoms persist in about 10 to 15 per cent of cases.

In the same way the virus can sometimes cause serious illness in young, otherwise healthy individuals, lingering symptoms appear to affect people of all ages, including those with no underlying health conditions.

Lasting effects are also not restricted to those who experience severe illness when they’re first infected.

People who are asymptomatic or have a mild case of COVID-19 can also face prolonged illness. Sometimes, these symptoms take weeks or months to appear.

The virus affects multiple organs

SARS-CoV-2 is primarily thought of as a respiratory virus, but the damage caused by COVID-19 is not always restricted to the lungs.

The virus binds to the body’s ACE2 receptors, which are found in large numbers in the respiratory tract, but also in the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, liver and gastrointestinal tract.

In some cases, it may be that the virus itself is causing damage to the body’s organs.

But researchers suspect it’s high levels of inflammation in the body — triggered by the immune system trying to get rid of the virus — that’s wreaking havoc, even after the infection has cleared.

“Most likely, they’ve had this overwhelming inflammatory response — which we know happens in COVID-19 patients — and then that’s had knock-on effects.”

COVID-19 can damage multiple organ systems, including:

  • Lungs: Lungs can be damaged when the virus enters the cells of the airways. It can cause scarred, stiff tissue that makes it difficult for the lungs to do their job of oxygenating the blood — leaving people breathless.
  • Heart: The virus can cause inflammation of the heart muscle or heart failure when the organ doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. The heart can also fail from lack of oxygen.
  • Brain: If the virus enters the brain, it can cause a sudden and severe infection. Neurological symptoms may also be a result of inflammation in the brain or strokes caused by blood clots……………..

A timely reminder

There are multiple studies now underway to investigate whether COVID-19 leaves a lasting health impact, and if so, to what extent.

Dr Short said without long-term studies, it’s difficult to know how concerned we should be about COVID-19 in contrast to other existing viral infections.

“The question is: If you took a virus of similar severity and similar duration, would you also see long-term complications?” she said.

“It’s very possible that we’re just seeing this with SARS-COV-2 because of the sheer numbers of people being infected.”

Even still, the emergence of symptoms down the track is a reminder of why it’s important to take precautions………. https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2020-09-26/coronavirus-covid-health-effects-can-linger/12705022

 

September 28, 2020 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, health

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