Growing evidence shows some COVID-19 patients experience medium and long-term symptoms

25 May 2022
Ian Stein

Kingston, Jamaica, May 25, 2022 (PAHO) –There is a growing body of evidence reports that persistent medium to long term symptoms in patients following acute infection with COVID-19. The findings of recent studies were presented by Dr. Sasha Peiris, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) consultant for the Incident Management System for the COVID-19 Response, in the webinar titled The Many Faces of the Post COVID-19 Condition. The webinar held last week was a collaboration between PAHO and the University of the West Indies (UWI) and had over 300 participants.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Post COVID-19, also known as ‘long COVID’, as a condition that occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually three months from the onset of COVID-19, the symptoms lasting for at least two months, and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.

According to Dr. Peiris, it is challenging to quantify the burden of disease due to many factors including the diverse nature of the studies conducted, evolving symptoms and lack of long term follow up. “Most common symptoms are fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive impairment or brain fog,” said Peiris. “Many people report that these symptoms prevent them from returning to work or school.”

Mr. Anthony Duttine, PAHO adviser, for Disability and Rehabilitation, said “People experiencing post-COVID may benefit from physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy to help manage symptoms and optimize functioning.”

Mr. Ian Stein, PAHO/WHO representative, said, “In the past two years, researchers, health institutions, and individuals have been working at a frenetic pace to understand COVID-19 and its extended impact. While we have made tremendous progress, we must be humble in front of a very clever virus.”

One particular piece of research from Trinidad was cited by Dr. Katija Khan, Lecturer in Clinical Psychology & Neuropsychologist at the UWI, St Augustine campus, as showing fear of becoming infected, increased stress levels and reduced social contact among the general population. In another study carried out across all UWI campuses, students were found to have a heightened fear of failure, problems with concentration and pursuing educational/professional goals. She also noted high levels of anxiety and loneliness in the two research samples and that those most at risk were females, persons with comorbidities and those with a history of mental illness.

Other speakers from the UWI Mona campus included Professor Dale Webber, Pro – Vice Chancellor & Principal, Professor Michael Boyne, Senior Lecturer in Endocrinology & Head of the Department of Medicine, and Dr. Blossom Anglin Brown, COVID Focal Point.