Citing the possible effects of COVID-19 infection on vital organs of the body, medical experts have asked all survivors of the viral infection to go for a comprehensive health check to be sure that no organ of the body was destroyed by the virus.
According to them, this is crucial considering the fact that COVID-19 is a new disease and to minimise its long term effects particularly among those with pre-existing health conditions.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, a Consultant Physician and Cardiologist with Providence Multi-Specialty Hospital, Abuja, Dr. John Asekhame, said COVID-19 affects the whole body and the effects are more with those with pre-existing health conditions.
Asekhame explained, “Once you recover from a disease that affects the whole body, it is good for you to see a specialist to review you to assess your level of function.
“The specialist will assess your heart, lungs, kidneys, blood, liver and the whole body to be sure that the long term effects are not staggering.
“This is important particular for survivors with pre-existing health conditions. For example, a survivor with diabetes, will need more health checks than the one that does not have. Again, an elderly man with hypertension who has had a stroke in the past, definitely his condition will need more review than a young survivor without health issues.
“So, every survivor just need to go for check up for follow up because this is a new disease. Prevention is better than cure. So, it is better to see a doctor to ensure that things are not taken you unawares.”
The cardiologist noted that new findings have shown that COVID-19 not only affects the lungs but also affects the heart, kidney and other organs in the body.
According to experts, evidence of heart complications of COVID-19 survivors raises significant concerns about the lasting impact of the pandemic.
They noted that not only does the prevalence of non-communicable diseases increase the risks associated with the virus, but the virus apparently is adding to the global burden of NCDs.
New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that many people who recover from the virus have heart inflammation (myocarditis). Of 100 survivors in the study, 78 had evidence of previous heart inflammation, and 60 showed ongoing inflammation at the time of observation.
Asekhame further said, “Now, because of the damage that this virus causes all over the body, the body will recover in different degrees especially those with pre-existing health conditions.
“So, I encourage all survivors of COVID-19 to go for a cardiovascular screening, just in case the heart is affected.
“If you have hypertension before and you have recovered from the infection, it is also important to go and see your doctor for evaluation to ensure that your organs are okay.
“If after recovery, you still have symptoms like leg swelling, difficulty in breathing, cough, dizziness, palpitation, tiredness after a little exercise, it goes to show that you need comprehensive medical check.
“The doctor will check and see if the problem is coming from the heart, the lungs that are recovering or from other organs of the body. The infection has what we call multi-systemic effect.”
The World Health Organisation says little is known about why some people, after coming through the acute phase of COVID-19, struggle to recover and suffer ongoing symptoms including tiredness, brain fog, cardiac and neurological disorders.
Clinical Care Lead in the WHO’s Emergencies Programme, Janet Diaz told AFP in an interview that it is time to start looking into post- COVID conditions.
“We still don’t fully understand what Long COVID is.
“There’s quite a bit to learn, but I am confident that the scientific community is really rallying around”, Diaz said.
She said British and other studies suggested potentially one in 10 cases may have prolonged symptoms one month after infection, but there was no picture yet of how long those conditions might persist.
“People may have prolonged symptoms, but we do know people are recovering. It may take a long time, but they are still recovering to previous health”, she said.
Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, Dr. Patrick Dakum, urged survivors still experiencing symptoms to exercise patience.
Dr. Dakum told PUNCH HealthWise that individual antibody responses might account for the difference.
“These are still being studied. It’s expected that this will clear after the infection is cleared.
“The length of time these symptoms will last is not clearly defined.
“Remember, we are still on a learning curve as far as COVID-19 is concerned. Patients should patiently wait until symptoms clear”, he said.
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