Long Covid a public health priority this year

By Le Phuong   January 13, 2022 | 05:30 am PT
Long Covid a public health priority this year
A doctor takes care of a Covid-19 patient in HCMC's Thu Duc City, September 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
The post-Covid syndrome, which occurs even among young, asymptomatic patients, is a major concern that is likely to affect public health and work performance in 2022, a health official says.

In just a month and a half, the Gia Dinh People's Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City has received around 1,021 patients with post-Covid health problems: 510 respiratory; 182 neurological; 134 cardiovascular; 180 hormonal; 66 gastrointestinal; and 49 skeletal and joint issues, Nguyen Anh Dung, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health, said Wednesday.

"These are concerning numbers that present challenges to be addressed," Dung said. He recalled the story of a female patient, 30, whose blood oxygen level dropped to 83-84 percent, a threshold deemed respiratory failure, after walking just 10 steps. She had suffered a severe Covid-19 infection.

Dung said around 2 percent of the Vietnamese population have had Covid-19, but current statistics and records are yet to reflect the status of post-Covid symptoms in the community.

In HCMC for example, over 500,000 people have already been infected and over 300,000 have been discharged from hospitals.

"Those who have been hospitalized mostly had moderate to severe Covid-19 infections. It means that the demand for post-Covid healthcare is high," Dung said.

Long Covid, also known as the post-Covid-19 syndrome, is a condition characterized by symptoms like fatigue, headache, anxiety and insomnia, which persist weeks or months after testing negative for the coronavirus.

"There are reports that say around 33-76 percent of patients may have post-Covid symptoms at least a month after the disease's initial symptoms. Twenty percent of them eventually have to be hospitalized again, while the rest need to be taken care of for two months after their discharge," Dung added.

Reports have also shown that post-Covid syndrome doesn't just occur in cases with severe symptoms, the elderly and those with underlying conditions, but also among young people with mild symptoms. Among patients with post-Covid syndrome, around 20 percent are aged 18-34 and asymptomatic.

Around 80 percent of recovered Covid-19 cases have at least one long-lasting post-Covid symptom, it has been reported.

Post-Covid syndrome not only affects one's health, but also work performance, the economy and society as a whole, Dung said.

"Public health issues post-Covid is a global priority, and this will be true for HCMC's medical system as well this year," he added.

An important priority for HCMC's medical system in the coming time will be to figure out the city's post-Covid syndrome situation, manage and care for those with post-Covid syndrome and increase its medical capabilities.

The current strategy to care for post-Covid cases focuses on early intervention. While waiting for the Ministry of Health to introduce a treatment regimen for post-Covid syndrome, HCMC will enlist experts to provide temporary guidance. The city would also boost its analytical capacity to gather more data on post-Covid symptoms, Dung said.

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