Do not think that after recovering from Covid-19, a person only receives immunity …
Pulmonary fibrosis, impaired functioning of the heart, kidneys, nervous system – all this is observed in patients after a coronavirus infection. Don’t be sick!
According to recent statistics, more than 4.3 million people have already recovered from a coronavirus worldwide. And while the main efforts of scientists and doctors are aimed at curing infected people and developing a vaccine, the question remains no less important – what trace leaves the new coronavirus in the body of the recovered? After all, as you know, even the seasonal flu can cause complications for various organs and systems of the body. As for Covid-19, according to the National Health Service of Great Britain, among patients requiring hospitalization, 45% will require long-term medical supervision, 4% – rehabilitation and 1% – constant medical care. But already now, doctors and researchers from different countries say that after recovery, patients can still feel the effects of the disease for a long time – on the lungs, heart, kidneys and even mental health.
Lung function may be impaired even after recovery
More and more data is coming from China, as well as from Italy, that patients diagnosed even with a mild course of Covid-19 may have long-term health problems long after the virus disappears from the body, writes Daily Mail. For example, in patients who have recovered from acute respiratory distress syndrome, pulmonary fibrosis may remain – scarring of the lung tissue, which can lead to shortness of breath. A study in Wuhan, where the tomography of 81 patients with Covid-19 was analyzed, suggests that fibrosis was detected even in those who did not show symptoms such as cough or fever.
“At the moment, we are focusing on treating acute patients to help them recover from COVID-19. But we also need to consider the future health effects of the virus,” said Professor Roberto Pedretti, head of the cardiology department at the Pavia Clinical Research Institute (Italy). He adds that due to the potentially long-term damage to the lungs, health services around the world will have to cope with the increasing number of people who have become disabled due to limitations in lung capacity and require serious rehabilitation to restore life quality.
In March, health officials in Hong Kong discovered that among the first patients discharged after treatment for coronavirus infection, 25% still suffered from shortness of breath with slightly accelerated walking. Despite the apparent cure, “some patients can see their lung function decrease by 20 to 30%,” said Dr. Owen Tsang Tak-in, medical director of the infectious center at Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong.
Everyone is happy to recover, but how will the transferred disease affect in the future? ..
One theory that explains these effects is that fibrosis occurs when the virus disrupts the healing process. The same was true for the SARS coronavirus, the predecessor to Covid-19, as described in an article in one of the scientific journals in 2017.
Angina pectoris, arrhythmia and risk of heart attack
Coronavirus can also affect the heart, as evidenced by the findings of the Chinese National Health Commission (NHC). It is reported that some patients with COVID-19 may develop angina pectoris and arrhythmia – conditions that can be caused directly by the virus or occur after the patient has been in bed for a long time. In general, the NHC has officially extended health insurance, including damage to several internal organs, among the potential effects of the new coronavirus, writes Hindustantimes.
The negative effect of coronavirus on the heart in some patients has also been confirmed by a study conducted at Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University. Among 416 hospitalized patients, 19% were found to have signs of heart damage. The University of Texas Health Sciences Center also warned that survivors of Covid-19 could suffer long-term heart damage, as well as increase existing cardiovascular problems, further increasing the risk of heart attack and d stroke, writes Vox. And as an example, he quotes the story of Janet Shapiro, a resuscitation doctor from New York, who recovered from Covid-19, but then discovered that she had developed cardiomyopathy – a condition in which the heart has problems with the body’s blood supply. Although the woman was in good health when she returned to work, she told NBC: “I started to feel that my heart was beating fast and couldn’t run as always, it was hard for me to resume my breath.”
The kidneys, brain and nervous system of infected people can also be affected.
Experts from a hospital in the town of Ninwells (Scotland) are carrying out a major research project into the long-term consequences of Covid-19, writes the BBC. In addition to the consequences of the disease for the lungs and heart, they also paid attention to kidney problems in those who had the disease. Dr. Samira Bell, a nephrologist who is part of the research team, said that in many European countries, doctors were unpleasantly affected by the number of patients requiring dialysis (a blood purification method widely used in the renal failure) for Covid-19 in intensive care. In severe patients, approximately 30%. And it is not yet known how long this injury lasts, if the kidneys recover quickly after the patient’s recovery.
Doctors struck by number of patients requiring dialysis
And yet – a study of Covid-19’s “predecessors” – MERS and SARS coronavirus infections – has shown that the virus can enter the brain through nervous tissue, writes DW. For example, in Japan, a patient infected with a new coronavirus was found to have signs of epilepsy and, over time, was diagnosed with meningitis caused by a new coronavirus. Japanese and Chinese researchers also fear that in some patients the pathogen will enter the brain, damaging the respiratory center. This may explain the cases where elderly patients with Covid-19 sometimes just stop breathing, even if they have never had breathing problems before.
The new coronavirus infection also appears to affect the central nervous system, says Vox. Long-term complications of Covid-19 caused by the virus itself or by inflammation caused by the virus can cause decreased attention, concentration and memory, as well as dysfunction of the peripheral nerves , “Those who go to arms, legs, fingers and toes,” says Mitchell. Elkind, President of the American Heart Association and Professor of Neurology and Epidemiology at Columbia University.
Overall, studies of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) may give some idea of the possible neurological problems in patients with severe Covid-19 after leaving the hospital. This condition is characterized by bilateral pulmonary infiltration and severe hypoxemia (a decrease in the oxygen content in the blood) in the absence of signs of cardiogenic pulmonary edema. – N.D.E.). Studies show that one in five ARDS survivors experience prolonged cognitive impairment, even five years after discharge. Violations can include short-term memory problems, learning difficulties. But that’s not all. Patients who have recovered from ARDS often have high rates of depression and anxiety and suffer from post-traumatic stress. During an SARS epidemic, former patients suffered from psychological stress for at least a year after their recovery.
We must admit that, in addition to efforts to study the nature of the virus and the methods of combating it, it will now be necessary to focus on a more detailed study of its effects on human health. Indeed, while the end of the pandemic is not visible, the number of people requiring long-term medical surveillance is increasing. And these are new challenges for social protection and medical infrastructure, which must be prepared.
Julia Gorban, Kiev
P. S. We have tried to find information on monitoring the status of patients who had Covid-19 in Ukraine, but it seems that there is no such centralized information yet. Ukrinform will continue to explore this subject in future publications.
According to the materials: ukrinform.ru