A new report by the Coronavirus Knowledge and Information Center released on Tuesday reveals how pervasive the “COVID Long” phenomenon has become, and said that, according to research, many of those who have recovered from the coronavirus face long-term complications.
The report looked at medical research from all over the world and gave some recommendations for Israel’s medical establishment on how to cope with persistent medical problems of those who have recovered from the virus.
Symptoms of COVID Long can affect even those who had mild cases and who were young and in good health when they first became ill, the report said. These persistent symptoms can have a widespread effect on the patients’ nervous, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, as well as on their mental health.
The researchers found that the COVID Long phenomenon was similar to lasting complications of other coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS. Some of those recovering from these other viruses reported symptoms for years and even permanent complications.
Studies of recovered COVID-19 patients referenced in the report show up to 80% reported persistent and severe fatigue following their recovery, and significant numbers of recovered patients experienced other symptoms as well. These included headaches, sleep disorders, difficulty concentrating, memory issues, problems with daily functioning and ongoing impairment of the senses of taste and odor.
For about 5% of recovered patients, these symptoms can continue for many months, and, although they improve over time for most, the report cautions that recovery may be a long process, with many ups and downs.
In rare cases, patients experienced impairment of the peripheral nervous system following their recovery.
Up to half of recovered patients experience cardiovascular symptoms following their recovery, according to various studies cited in the report. These included arrhythmias and inflammation in the heart muscle, with varying degrees of severity. These cardiovascular symptoms were sometimes found in patients who had no previous history of heart disease.
Many of those who recovered continued to experience respiratory symptoms, including difficulty breathing and persistent coughing, which could last for months.
Many reported a decrease in physical fitness and endurance and some experienced scarring of lung tissue, the long-term significance of which has not yet been determined.
Persistent mental-health issues were another consequence of the virus, the report found, such as depression and anxiety.
A host of other problems following recovery has been reported, including rashes, hair loss, abdominal pain, joint and muscle weakness, hearing impairment, tinnitus and persistent diarrhea.
The report notes that leading health organizations and research institutions around the world, including the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control in the US and the National Health Service in Britain, are currently monitoring long-term complications in those who have recovered from the virus. The researchers urged the medical establishment to create rehabilitation plans for those who have recovered as soon as possible, which could reduce the ongoing burden on the public-health system and the economy.
In light of these ongoing symptoms, the report said, efforts should be made to curb the extent of morbidity among all strata of society, including among the young and healthy. In addition, medical personnel should prepare themselves to cope with these ongoing health issues. It also recommended the establishment of specialized rehabilitation clinics for follow-up treatment for those who have had the coronavirus, and that doctors and other health professionals should get specialized training in how to treat those who have recovered.
The researchers from the center cautioned that the current information is still incomplete, and that much more research will have to be done for them to come to definite conclusions.