COVID-19-related long-term effects provide opportunities for better pandemic management

Following reports that COVID-19 may cause lingering heart damage;

Vinie Varkey, M.Sc, Senior Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers her view:

“While the growing evidence of COVID-19 causing long-term effects in some patients is concerning and adds to the list of unknowns associated with this outbreak, this particular issue also provides an opportunity for the wider circle of stakeholders to develop processes and systems that can potentially develop solutions to help address its wider impact.

“The current understanding of the disease is that most patients affected by COVID-19 seem to recover fully with no further complications. However, there has been a smaller group of patients for whom COVID-19 presents a significant challenge – that of prolonged illness. For such patients, the impact of COVID-19 infection can be life-threatening. Reports of the virus triggering long-term damage to organs such as the heart and lung is worrisome. These symptoms may also be in addition to the virus causing neurological symptoms such as loss of smell or worse, leading to a state of confusion and seizures.

“The presentation of these long-term multi-organ symptoms associated with COVID-19 represents a significant challenge. It adds to the existing list of areas where we currently have a knowledge deficit, such as if people are infectious throughout their illness or they can be re-infected again. At this stage, there are a lot of questions with no definite answers and it is likely that the longer these questions remain unanswered, the implications will be more severe for healthcare systems around the world.

“However, it also provides an opportunity for stakeholders to work towards a solution to help address the issue. For example, healthcare providers and government authorities should work together to help create a patient registry that will track the progress of those suffering long-term effects of COVID-19. The registry can act as a significant source of information on the evolving landscape of the impact of this virus on such patients, as well as help healthcare providers to plan for the long-term medical management of such patients, especially those who become significantly sick long after their initial symptoms have disappeared.

“Since this pandemic is affecting the wider healthcare system, it is warranted that carrying the purpose of the registry forward will need government assistance, especially in the form of fiscal package to help develop, establish and run the monitoring system in an efficient manner. In the long-term, it maybe that there is a need to allocate part of the annual budget for patients who need long-term care to help manage symptoms associated with long COVID-19, as well as help establish processes and systems that can help better in management of an unforeseen pandemic. Lastly, but most significantly, wearing masks where mandated and using hand sanitizer is an effective way to manage the current situation.”

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