At least one in three patients hospitalised with Covid-19 suffer long-term health issues including multiple organ problems and deteriorated mental health, according to a review of studies looking at the lasting impact of the disease.
Published in the journal Nature Medicine on Monday, the review looked at the frequency of symptoms among Covid “long-haulers”, the most common of which include fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Authors of the research said the data pointed to an underappreciated health emergency that governments needed to study more closely and find ways to manage.
“Given the millions of people infected by SARS-CoV-2 globally, the long-term cost on physical, cognitive and mental aspects of health still remain to be seen,” lead author Kartik Sehgal, a medical oncologist at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, told AFP.
“We may be capturing only the tip of the iceberg.”
While severe Covid-19 infects patients’ lungs — leaving many with long term breathing issues — studies have shown that the virus also attacks other organs, leading to a variety of complications including cardiovascular illness and chronic inflammation.
Sehgal and colleagues reviewed nine long-term studies from Europe, the United States and China and found that several patients reported multiple organ problems months after they were discharged from hospital.
Overall, they found that 30 percent of patients studied reported at least one symptom, such as fatigue, shortness of breath and psychiatric conditions.
One study in Italy of 143 patients found that nearly 90 percent reported lingering symptoms 60 days after they recovered from initial Covid-19 infection.
The most common symptoms were fatigue (53.1 percent), shortness of breath (43.4 percent), joint pain (27.3 percent) and chest pain (21.7 percent).
In total, more than half of patients experienced multiple symptoms two months after leaving hospital.
Three studies from France, Britain and China showed that between 25-30 percent of patients reported sleep disturbances weeks after recovering from Covid-19.
And approximately 20 percent of patients had reported hair loss, according to results from multiple studies.
– ‘Medical needs don’t stop’ –
The results regarding mental health were perhaps equally concerning.
In a cohort of 402 survivors in Italy one month after they were hospitalised, 56 percent tested positive for at least one psychiatric condition such as PTSD, depression or anxiety.
The authors said that around 30 percent of patients had developed PTSD after being hospitalised with Covid-19.
“It is important to not forget about the mental health effects of long-Covid-19, while taking care of the physical symptoms, as they can be easily missed,” said Sehgal, who is also an instructor at Harvard Medical School.
The researchers called for further investigation into long-Covid, and the wider establishment of clinics to treat people with lingering, life-altering symptoms.
Sehgal said he hoped the research showed that simply surviving Covid-19 is not necessarily a satisfactory health outcome.
“Although preventing deaths remains the most important goal, it is also important to recognise the multi-organ morbidity of COVID-19,” he said.
“The medical needs of patients with COVID-19 don’t stop at the time of hospital discharge and they also don’t necessarily stop after three to four weeks.
Nigeria: Six days with no new COVID-19 deaths
Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria has recorded no fewer than 110 new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) but no new deaths for the sixth consecutive day.
The country’s health agency, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) disclosed on Wednesday.
The last time the NCDC recorded a death, according to the report was on April 1 when the toll increased by one to 2,058.
Wednesday’s new cases were reported from 11 states, including Lagos (24), Yobe (24), FCT (16), Bayelsa (10), Rivers (10), Kaduna (10),Nasarawa (5), Akwa Ibom (4), Bauchi (3), Edo (3), and Plateau(1).
To date, the country has recorded 163,440 cases of the virus out of which 153,788 have recovered.
On Tuesday, the Federal Government took delivery of 100,000 more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Indian government as vaccination efforts continue across the country.
COVID-19: Seven have died in UK after receiving AstraZeneca vaccine, says regulator
The UK medical regulator said Saturday that out of 30 people who suffered rare blood clots after receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, seven have died.
The British acknowledgement of deaths comes as several European countries have paused the use of the AstraZeneca jab over a potential link to blood clots.
The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in a statement that “Out of the 30 reports up to and including 24 March, sadly 7 have died.”
The reports of thrombosis, submitted by medics or members of the public via a government website, came after 18.1 million doses of the vaccine had been administered in the country.
Most of the cases (22) were a rare clotting condition called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. Eight cases saw people suffer other types of thrombosis combined with low levels of blood platelets, which help blood clot.
There were no reports of blood clots from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the UK regulator said, adding that “our thorough review into these reports is ongoing”.
But MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine stressed that the benefits far outweighed any risks. “The public should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so,” she said.
Europe update expected
Both the MHRA and European Medicines Agency (EMA) say no causal link has yet been established between the blood clotting case and the AstraZeneca vaccine.
But growing concerns have prompted a number of countries to pause rollout of the vaccine or limit it to older people due to the relatively young age of those who suffered blood clots.
Netherlands on Friday halted vaccinations with the AstraZeneca jab for people under the age of 60 after five new cases among younger women, one of whom died.
Germany has suspended the use of the vaccine for those under 60 after 31 cases of blood clots, most of them among younger and middle-aged women.
A number of other countries including France have imposed a similar age restrictions, while Denmark and Norway have suspended all use of the vaccine.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which like the World Health Organization previously declared the AstraZeneca vaccine safe, is expected to announce updated advice on the issue on April 7.
It said Wednesday that there had been 62 cases worldwide of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, 44 of them in the European Economic Area, which includes the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
This figure did not include all Germany’s cases, however.
More than 9.2 million AstraZeneca jabs have been administered in the region.
The EMA said it believes the vaccine is safe and that experts have found no specific risk factors such as age, gender or medical history.
‘Weight of evidence’
Paul Hunter, a medical microbiologist at Britain’s University of East Anglia, told AFP that he had initially thought the link between vaccination and blood clots was likely to be a “random association”.
As evidence mounts of clusters in separate countries, “the weight of evidence is now looking towards Oxford-AstraZeneca actually being the cause of these adverse events”, he said.
Nevertheless, the risk for the unvaccinated of dying from Covid is “substantially greater,” he said.
A spokeswoman for AstraZeneca told AFP that patient safety is its “highest priority”.
UK, EU and World Health Organization regulatory bodies have concluded that the benefits “significantly outweigh the risks across all adult age groups”, she said.
AstraZeneca said last month following US efficiency trials that its vaccine is 76 percent effective at preventing the disease. It also said data for the EU and the UK showed no increased risk of blood clots.
The UK has administered more than 31 million first vaccine doses, using both the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Pfizer-BioNTech jabs. People cannot choose which one they get.
The UK in June 2020 ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and supported its development. It also ordered 30 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine the same year.
FG to spend N396bn on COVID-19 vaccination
The federal government of Nigeria is proposing to spend the sum of N396 billion for the COVID-19 vaccination in 2021 and 2022 according to the country’s Minister of Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
The Minister made this known on Wednesday after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting, which was presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
She noted that the figure may significantly reduce as the Federal Government receives more donations of the vaccines from the private sector.
She further explained that the Ministry of Health is working on details of the gap that the Federal Government will be required to fill in the vaccination exercise.
According to her, the size of the proposed supplementary budget agreed by the executive and legislative arm is yet to be resolved, because the Ministry of Defence and Health, are yet to provide details of the military hardware requirement.
Ahmed had earlier in February said a supplementary budget will be needed to cover the cost of COVID-19 vaccinations, for which no provision was made in the 2021 finance bill adopted in December.
The Federal Government has said it plans to inoculate 40% of Nigeria’s population this year and another 30% in 2022.
“There will be a supplementary budget, the first one will be in March relating to the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.