By Dr Helen Kabaya
The majority of Covid-19 patients recover fully within weeks of illness.
However, a subset of Covid-19 patients will present with new, returning or persistent symptoms of at least 2 months’ duration after severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection.
These symptoms can occur even in people who did not have Covid-19 symptoms when they were infected, those who had a mild SARS-COV2 infection or in patients who do not have any underlying medical condition.
The commonly reported symptoms are prominent fatigue, shortness of breath, chest tightness, anxiety and inability to focus, also known as brain fog.
Other symptoms that have been reported are depression, loss of sense of smell and/or taste, a dry or productive cough, muscle pain, joint pain, symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities (post-exertional malaise), subjective fevers, headaches, poor appetite and insomnia (inability to sleep).
These symptoms represent a post viral syndrome Covid-19 pandemic that has been associated with increases in mental health issues among Covid-19 patients.
Along with social isolation resulting from Covid-19 prevention measures, patients frequently suffer from symptoms of depression, anxiety or mood changes. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is triggered by a terrifying or traumatic event, which could result from either experiencing it or witnessing it.
As for Covid-19, the emergency environmental conditions that have been induced with this infectious disease might produce unique characteristics that are resulting in PTSD among Covid-19 survivors.
Of note, most Covid-19 patients are more likely to be infected by close contact from family members. As a result, those patients might be experiencing the impacts of both Covid-19 exposure in themselves as well as witnessing it in their family member.
This could result in a double exposure effect and could have a more severe impact.
It is important for anyone who experiences any of these symptoms to seek medical care from their nearest health facilities.
Consultation from medical personnel and examination is needed to rule out other possible causes of these symptoms like unmasking of pre-existing health conditions or even SARS-COV2 re-infection.
Targeted pharmacologic treatment for symptomatic improvement is currently being done to reduce symptom burden and improve quality of life in affected patients.
However, studies are being done to quantify the symptom burden in those with persistent symptoms and to evaluate the response to these and other potential therapies.
Long-term psychological support could be a crucial element aiding in reducing mortality and morbidity.
The best way to prevent post-Covid syndrome is to prevent Covid-19 illness. For all those who are eligible, getting vaccinated against Covid-19 is the best way to prevent getting Covid-19 and can also help protect those around you.
Remember to always follow the recommended preventative measures of:
Wear a facemask
Keep a social distance of at least 2 meters
Frequently wash hand with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitiser
Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces
- Dr Kabaya is currently studying for a Masters in Public Health programme and is attached to NAC