Living with Covid-19: ‘Long Covid’ after-effect a nightmare for recovering patients

Graphic depicting the Covid-19 virus.

By Lian Cheng

When BBC reporter Lucy Adams appeared recently to share her experience and the suffering she endured after battling a prolonged Covid-19 infection, she brought the world to the attention of another after-effect of contracting the dreaded virus.

The 44-year-old journalist, who is a mother of three and an adventurer, broke down during the interview, saying that she still has not fully recovered from the infection after contracting Covid-19 in March 2020.

“Most days I wake up in pain and go to bed with pain. I have vertigo, migraines and blurred vision. My joints feel like brittle bone grating on metal.

“I’m one of the 385,000 in the UK who have been suffering ‘long Covid’ for more than 12 months – and the number is growing,” said Adams whose biggest question was “will I ever get better?”.

Sadly, one of Adams’ daughters also experiences the chronic symptoms of breathlessness and fatigue, both symptoms of having suffered from the prolonged infection.

Apart from Adams, BBC reported another victim of long Covid – Linn who has been suffering the after-effects for nearly a year. Painfully, the trainee anesthetist expressed that “the condition has taken her whole life from her”.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described the group of Covid-19 patients who continue to suffer the symptoms after 12 weeks as victims of what they termed ‘long Covid’.

Among the symptoms of Covid-19 listed by WHO are chest and muscle pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, and cognitive dysfunction which other media described as “brain fog” and warned that long Covid has a “serious impact on people’s ability to go back to work or have a social life”.

Citing data from the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics, Medical News Today reported that roughly one in 10 respondents who tested positive for Covid-19 exhibiting symptoms lasting for a period of 12 weeks or longer.

“This means that across the world there may be more than five million cases of Long Covid,” said Medical News Today.

Meanwhile, the Guardian which looked into the issue, quoted researchers at Imperial College London to report that long Covid has been due to “autoantibodies” that mistakenly attack healthy cells, causing damages and chronic symptoms of fatigue, breathlessness and headaches, the common symptoms of long Covid. In the same report, the Guardian said studies and analysis have found that Covid-19 vaccines tend to alleviate the symptoms of long Covid, citing a large survey of more than 800 people that mRNA vaccines, in particular, are beneficial.

Should that be the case, perhaps it is a sensible decision by the Health Ministry to decide that moving forward, Malaysia’s vaccination programme will be driven by the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccines.

For readers’ information, the mRNa vaccines refer to vaccines such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna that teach the cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response, rather than using a deactivated virus to trigger an immune response.

AstraZeneca on the other hand, is viral vector-based vaccines or adenovirus-based vaccines uses a harmless virus or adenovirus to trigger the immune system to create antibodies to fight Covid-19 virus while Sinovac of China is produced using an inactivated virus to induce immunity.

Following long Covid cases detected in the UK and other developed countries, Sarawakians who are mainly administered with Sinovac perhaps should be more prepared, and more cautious, to avoid contracting Covid-19 at all, as the after-effects may be even more devastating than what we have been informed, in view that there is still much to learn about the coronavirus, its mutations and its reactions with the hosts’ body systems.

In Sarawak, there has yet to be any report on long Covid cases. Are there no such cases at all, or are there cases but they have yet to be detected, we have no answer.

The Sarawak Health Department, most likely, has no manpower to spare for such a survey or research, when the focus of the State government is to vaccinate as many as possible and in the shortest time achievable, regardless of what vaccines, to ensure a fully protected Sarawak.

It may not be the best policy but it is the most practical and thus, the right decision, in view that a high vaccination rate is the only means for economies to be rebuilt and recover.

It is, however, hoped that when Sarawak is back on its feet with more than 80 per cent of its population vaccinated, the Sarawak government will look into the provision of a third dose to boost immunity or to only administer vaccines backed-up by full scientific data. — DayakDaily