SINCE the onset of the Omicron variant in November 2021, COVID-19 has since taken a new trajectory. Unlike its predecessor variants such as Delta, Beta and Alpha which caused severe sickness, hospitalisations and numerous deaths, the Omicron is a complete opposite of the three. By the end of December 2021, it represented 96% of all COVID-19 infections in the UK and 92% in Denmark. Data from South Africa, the UK, Denmark, Canada and the US all showed a lesser risk of hospitalization when infected with Omicron compared to Delta
By Michael Gwarisa
According to the COVID-19 Global Situation Report, as at November 15, 2022, a total 632, 533, 408 confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been reported while 6,592, 320 deaths had also been confirmed. Globally, from 7 October to 7 November 2022, 114 781 SARS-CoV-2 sequences were shared through GISAID. Among these, 114 340 sequences were the Omicron variant of concern (VOC), accounting for 99.6% of sequences reported globally in the past 30 days.
Judging from the global COVID-19 statistics, easing of restrictions and the general attitude of citizens in Zimbabwe and across the globe in as far as following COVID-19 prevention protocols are concerned, it is clear that the risk of getting COVID-19 has greatly reduced. This is largely to do with ongoing COVID-19 vaccination programs across the world.
However, in the midst of all these positive milestones that have been made in the COVID-19 fight, comorbidities affecting mainly those who developed severe, mild or even asymptomatic acute infection have since been recorded in the country. These may include a wide range of physical and mental health consequences experienced by some patients that are present four or more weeks after SARS-CoV-2 infection. This has led in many instances to a lack of return to a usual state of health following acute COVID-19 illness.
This may also include development of new or recurrent symptoms or unmasking of a pre-existing condition that occurs after the symptoms of acute COVID-19 illness have resolved,” said Mr Tinashe Mudzviti, a consultant Pharmacist during a Science Ca’fe that was organized by the Health Communicators Forum of Zimbabwe (HCF).
Known as Long COVID, Post-acute COVID-19, Long-term effects of COVID, Post-acute COVID syndrome, Chronic COVID, Long-haul COVID, Late sequelae and or Post-acute sequelae of SARS-COV-2 infection, the condition has resulted in patients getting admitted for new health conditions that they never had before such as Diabetes, erectile dysfunction in men, difficulties breathing in children and Menstrual irregularities in women.
“Many patients continue to recover between 4 and 12 weeks. While patients may still recover after 12 weeks, persistent illness becomes more likely. Currently we cannot predict who will progress to long COVID.”
In terms of presentation of the disease, it may appear as persistent symptoms and conditions that begin at the time of acute COVID-19 illness. It may also be a new-onset signs, symptoms, or conditions following asymptomatic disease or a period of acute symptom relief or remission. Long COVID may also present as an evolution of symptoms and conditions that include some persistent symptoms (e.g., shortness of breath) with the addition of new symptoms or conditions over time (e.g., cognitive difficulties). There is also worsening of pre-existing symptoms or conditions.
New or ongoing symptoms commonly reported
The risk of Diabetes in Long COVID
A study by Barret C et al shows that incidence of new diabetes diagnosis among COVID-19 patients matched by age and sex was higher compared to no COVID-19 diagnosis and to pre-pandemic non COVID acute respiratory infection (ARI).
Organs most affected by Long COVID
Long COVID symptoms are manifesting the most in the body’s ACE2 receptors. These receptors are present in the Oral and nasal mucosa, Lungs, Heart, Gastrointestinal tract, Liver, Kidneys, Spleen, Brain and Arterial and venous endothelial cell.
Impact of vaccination on Long COVID
Data from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) shows that Post-COVID-19 conditions may be less likely to occur after vaccine breakthrough. While most studies on Post COVID conditions occurring after vaccine breakthrough have focused on adults, two included adolescents.