10% of COVID-19 patients treated at LUTH have long COVID – Physician

An infectious diseases physician, Dr Iorhen Akase, says 10 per cent of patients treated for COVID-19 at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) have symptoms of long COVID.

Akase, Head of Infectious Diseases Unit of LUTH, made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Lagos.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), post COVID-19 condition, commonly known as long COVID, can affect anyone exposed to SARS-CoV-2, regardless of age or severity of original symptoms.

Long COVID is an illness in people who have either recovered from COVID-19 but still report lasting effects of the infection, or have had the usual symptoms for far longer than would be expected.

Akase said that LUTH had been tracking some patients it treated for COVID-19 and discovered that about seven to 10 per cent of the patients treated for COVID-19 came with complaints of symptoms of long COVID.

He told NAN that some of the patients were experiencing the symptoms almost two years after their first COVID-19 infection.

“In LUTH, we treated over 6,000 people for COVID-19 – those that were admitted and those that came as outpatients who were tested and treated at home.

“If we say 10 per cent, then it is about 600 patients with long COVID. Those are the ones we know for now.

“These people have long term consequences of COVID-19; that is why the message has to be clear to people that there is something called long COVID,’’ he said.

According to the expert, viral infections behave the same way.

“People go through an acute illness that lasts five to 14 days before recovering. They recover because the immune system rose up and fought against the virus.

“However, some don’t because the viral infection leaves behind some litany of damages that may take weeks, months or years to fully recover.

“It is like when a tornado passes through a place briefly but the effects are damaging.

“When people have COVID-19 and their immune system is not adjusted enough, making them unable to get back to their normal ways of life, they suffer long term effects, which sometimes, become a psychiatric illness, as some go into depression,” he said.

According to him, it is a huge burden.

He said that LUTH anticipated such and it made it to establish a long COVID clinic where many people had received help.

“People that have recovered from COVID-19 but are having these symptoms can come and complain.

“We investigate each patient to know the symptoms caused by the virus and ones caused by organ failure.

“Through the long COVID clinic, we provide care to patients and monitor the response level of their immunity while finding solutions to questions they have on long COVID,” he said.

On whether Nigeria should change the case definition of COVID-19, Akase said it wasn’t necessary.

According to the expert, case definition for long COVID-19 is easy to identify from COVID-19.

“COVID-19 symptoms of coughing, sneezing, sore throats, shortness of breath, loss of smell and taste are still the same.

However, people experience it in different dimensions.

“What needs to change is our message to people; they need to know that whether they have a mild or severe COVID-19, they can still have long COVID-19, and if they do, they should know about getting help,” he said.

Akase said that common symptoms of long COVID can include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction, body aches, neurologic, cardiac and kidney issues, among others.

He said that protection from long COVID means protecting oneself and others from COVID-19 infection in the first place.

Akase advised members of the public to ensure regular washing of hands and wearing of facemask, adding that they should embrace COVID-19 vaccines. (NAN)