WHO experts raise concerns over post-Covid symptoms

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on February 26, 2021

One in ten Covid-19 sufferers remains unwell after 12 weeks, many for much longer

The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe, Hans Kluge, on Thursday raised concerns over “long Covid” or “post-Covid” symptoms at a virtual press conference.

This comes as Europe sees a surge in the number of coronavirus cases.

"The disability following SARS-CoV-2 infection lingers on for months with severe social, economic, health, and occupational consequences," said Kluge. He sees these issues as “a clear priority for WHO, and of the utmost importance.”

‘Constellation of symptoms’ of long Covid-19 worries WHO

Kluge revealed that around 38 million infection cases had been recorded in the European Region since the inception of the pandemic began. “One in ten Covid-19 sufferers remains unwell after 12 weeks, and many for much longer," he said, as cited in a Xinhua news agency report.

“Yet stories of those who should have ‘recovered’, but whose lives were still affected by debilitating symptoms soon emerged. Regrettably, some were met with disbelief or lack of understanding,” said Kluge.

Varying combination

Speaking at the virtual conference, Professor Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, echoed the same thoughts as Kluge and explained “post-Covid” symptoms.

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McKee described them as “a varying combination of overlapping symptoms, including chest and muscle pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, and what patients describe as brain fog.”

He elaborated: “Although many viral infections are self-limiting, making people feel unwell for only a few days before clearing up, others cause long-term problems. Early on, we realised that this new coronavirus was not just causing pneumonia. In some patients, it was attacking many different body systems, such as the heart and blood vessels, the brain, and the kidneys.”

Kluge further stated that to address this issue, WHO had “hosted a consultation on post-Covid-19 conditions, focusing on recognition, research, and rehabilitation” earlier this month.

Meeting to lay out strategy

Kluge further informed that WHO Europe would soon hold a meet with the chief medical officers of all 53 countries in the European Region to lay out strategic plans to deal with the issue.

“As we learn more, we need to make sure patients who have had suspected or confirmed Covid-19, who have persistent — new or changing symptoms -- should have access to follow-up care. This is where primary health-care has a particularly strong role to play,” said Kluge.

Kluge concluded: “I am calling upon you, countries and institutions in the European Region, to come together as part of an integrated research agenda, using harmonised data collection tools and study protocols. This will be key to maximise the impact of treatment and improve long-term outcomes for patients.”

Published on February 26, 2021

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