MOST patients with Covid-19 experience mild symptoms or moderate illness. Between 10% and 15% of patients progress to severe disease, and about 5% become critically ill.
Typically, patients recover from Covid-19 after two to six weeks. While most patients recover and return to normal health, some can have symptoms of Covid-19 that last for weeks or even months.
This persistent state of ill health is known as long Covid or post-Covid condition. These patients are not infectious to others during this time.
Long Covid is a range of symptoms that continue for weeks or months beyond the initial illness. It can happen to any Covid-19 patient, including those who were not hospitalised. Some patients develop medical complications that may have lasting health effects.
Patients with long Covid report experiencing different combinations of symptoms such as tiredness or fatigue, difficulty thinking or concentrating, headache, loss of smell or taste, dizziness on standing, palpitations or increased heartbeat, chest pain, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, cough, joint or muscle pain, depression or anxiety, fever, and symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities. These symptoms are caused by patients’ body’s response to the virus continuing beyond the initial illness.
Preliminary results from a national survey in the United Kingdom estimates that around one in 10 Covid-19 patients exhibit symptoms for a period of 12 weeks or longer (https://bit.ly/34W82C9).
Another study found that 30% of Covid-19 patients surveyed still had persistent symptoms after nine months (https://bit.ly/3cdMODQ). There is no such information available in Malaysia as yet.
As the number of accumulated Covid-19 cases in Malaysia is more than half a million now (595,374 as of June 3), there should be some observation on patients who have recovered to study if they have long Covid. Information on prevalence, whether the patients seek treatment or not, their ability to resume physical functions after recovery from Covid-19, health-related quality of life and proportion returning to work should be monitored.
Covid-19 patients who recovered and have been discharged from hospitals, whether they suffered mild or moderate symptoms, should be well informed about long Covid. They should be advised to seek treatment if they experience any of the symptoms mentioned here. With over half a million accumulated cases, even a small percentage of patients experiencing long-term debility could have significant and lasting health and economic consequences on the country.
The best method to prevent long Covid is to protect yourself from getting infected with Covid-19. Observe all standard operating procedures, avoid crowds and poorly-ventilated indoor spaces, and get vaccinated.