What are the long-term effects of COVID-19?

Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, BC. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, BC. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

With mass vaccination in progress, we look forward to post-COVID days. While we look forward to post-COVID era, we should not forget people who have been sick with COVID-19. Do we know how they are doing? What are the long-term effects of COVID-19?

What about all the people who have died because of COVID-19?

Here are the Canadian statistics as of June 3, 2021: total number of cases of COVID-19 1.4 million, total number of deaths 25,000.

Good news is Alberta is steadily climbing towards its vaccination goal for lifting COVID-19 restrictions, with nearly 65 per cent of eligible Albertans having received their first dose.

The province expects to lift all COVID-19 restrictions by the end of June or early July, two weeks after 70 per cent of Albertans aged 12 and older have received one dose of the vaccine.

What about those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19?

Recommendations are that people be vaccinated regardless of whether they already had COVID-19. If you are fully vaccinated, after two weeks you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic keeping in mind the guidelines set by your province.

What about people that have recovered from COVID-19? Are there any long-term effects?

Although most people with COVID-19 get better within weeks of illness, some people experience post-COVID conditions, says an article in the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website dated April 8, 2021.

CDC continues to work to identify how common these longer-term effects are, who is most likely to get them, and whether symptoms eventually resolve. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate post-COVID conditions. These studies will help us better understand post-COVID conditions and understand how to treat patients with these longer-term effects.

Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience more than four weeks after first being infected with the virus.

Even people who did not have symptoms when they were infected can have post-COVID conditions. These conditions can have different types and combinations of health problems for different lengths of time.

Types of Post-COVID conditions:

1. Long COVID
Long COVID is a range of symptoms that can last weeks or months after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 or can appear weeks after infection. Long COVID can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if the illness was mild, or they had no symptoms.

2. Multiorgan Effects of COVID-19
Multiorgan effects can affect most, if not all, body systems including heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain functions. It is unknown how long multiorgan system effects might last and whether the effects could lead to chronic health conditions.

3. Other effects
Effects of COVID-19 treatment and hospitalization can also include post-intensive care syndrome (PICS), which refers to health effects that remain after a critical illness. These effects can include severe weakness and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD involves long-term reactions to a very stressful event.

The best way to prevent these long-term complications is to prevent COVID-19. In general, people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series. If you were diagnosed with COVID-19 and are experiencing long-term complications then you should contact post-COVID care clinics. These clinics are opening at medical centers across Alberta and Canada. Your family doctor can help you with that.

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure: wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth, stay two meters apart, get vaccinated, avoid crowded areas, and wash your hands frequently.

Enjoy the camping and BBQ season safely.

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