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Tuesday September 28th, 2021
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Long COVID: Sri Lanka expert warns of multisystem inflammatory syndrome onset

ECONOMYNEXT – Several Sri Lankans including children who recovered from COVID-19 have been diagnosed with a rare disease known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) which has been identified as a ‘long COVID’ condition, an expert said.

President of the College of Pulmonologists Dr Geethal Perera told Economynext on Wednesday (15) that some COVID-19 patients can develop MIS about two to six weeks after recovery from the virus.

MIS is a condition that causes different body parts to become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Though rare, it can develop in children as well as adults who had COVID-19.

Patients whose organs are affected must be thoroughly examined and treated accordingly, he said.

Symptoms such as high blood pressure, an increased heart rate, a decrease in urine passing and several other symptoms can also be seen according to the organ the condition has affected.

“It is not a condition that’s unique to post-COVID patients. It can occur due to various other reasons. But these symptoms may appear in some COVID-19 patients about two to six weeks after recovery,” he said.

Sri Lanka has seen an increase in COVID-19 among children, several of whom have contracted multisystem inflammatory syndrome, according to the expert.

Perera said health authorities must have a follow-up procedure for COVID-19 patients who recover to examine the patients from time to time.

“There is no specific age susceptible to this condition. All age groups are vulnerable. Therefore, adults and children alike must continue to be cautious for at least six months after COVID-19 recovery,” he said.

Long COVID

People who “recover” from COVID-19 but continue to experience symptoms may have developed what is known as Long COVID.

“Sometimes Long COVID can last for about four to six months,” said Perera.

Janet Diaz, Team Lead of Health Care Readiness at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a recent WHO discussion said further studies are needed to understand Long COVID and the duration a patient may experience it.

“We’re still about one year and a half into the pandemic. There’s still more studies that need to be done to follow patients who develop post COVID-19 condition or long COVID and to see when their symptoms we hope will resolve,” Diaz said.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention in the United States, unlike some types of post-COVID conditions that only tend to occur in people who have had severe illness, the following symptoms can be observed in anyone who has had COVID-19, even if the illness was mild, or if they had no initial symptoms.

 

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Cough
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Pins-and-needles feeling
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleep problems
  • Fever
  • Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)
  • Rash
  • Mood changes
  • Change in smell or taste
  • Changes in period cycles

 

The CDC further said some people who had severe illness with COVID-19 experience multiorgan effects or autoimmune conditions over a longer time with symptoms lasting weeks or months after COVID-19 illness. Multiorgan effects can affect most, if not all, body systems, including heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain functions. Autoimmune conditions happen when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake, causing inflammation (painful swelling) or tissue damage in the affected parts of the body.

While it is very rare, some people, mostly children, experience multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) during or immediately after a COVID-19 infection. According to the CDC, MIS can lead to post-COVID conditions if a person continues to experience multiorgan effects or other symptoms.

Treatment

WHO’s Diaz said no specific treatment for the condition has been identified yet.

“Any patient or person who develops post COVID-19 condition should go seek care. The care pathways should be multidisciplinary in nature, meaning that they can include your primary care provider as well as relevant specialist rehab professionals, social care workers, psychosocial workers, mental health professionals,” she said.

“With regard to specific treatment, we don’t yet have one.

“The reason is that we don’t yet understand why this develops. So, as we’re learning more about the actual reason or mechanism of the disease developing, then we hope to have a specific treatment.”

Diaz said the best way to prevent post-COVID conditions is by getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

“It is very clear that preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection, preventing COVID-19 is the best way to prevent the development of post COVID-19 condition or long COVID. So the use of vaccines we know reduces hospitalisation, reduces mortality, and so all those that are eligible should do that,” she said.

“Public health measures such as mask wearing in the appropriate places, physical distancing, hand-washing, are also extremely important to prevent COVID-19,” she added. (Colombo/Sep15/2021)

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