LONDON – The World Health Organization on Wednesday released an official definition of ‘long COVID’ in an effort to improve understanding of the lingering health issues affecting some COVID-19 survivors.
The United Nations health agency’s International Classification of Diseases now refers to the offensive phenomenon as a “post COVID-19 condition,” noting that a separate definition may be applicable for children, CNBC reported.
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Specifically, the WHO defines the post COVID-19 state as consisting of at least one symptom that usually begins within three months of the onset of a confirmed or probable coronavirus infection, persists for at least two months and cannot not be explained by another diagnosis, Reuters reported.
According to CNBC, symptoms may appear during infection or first appear after the patient has recovered from acute illness.
Common symptoms of the post COVID state include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunctions “but also others … which generally have an impact on daily functioning,” said the World Health Agency.
The WHO has also recognized that its definition may change as new evidence emerges and understanding of the consequences of COVID-19 continues to evolve, Reuters reported.
Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergency program, called the official definition a “big step forward” for the agency, but one that requires continued attention.
“We must remain vigilant. This pandemic is not over, and it continues to cause disease, continues to cause death, but it also continues to have long-term consequences for people around the world, ”Ryan said in a prepared statement.
The WHO has estimated that between 10% and 20% of patients with COVID-19 experienced symptoms that persisted for months after infection, including persistent fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog and depression, reported CNBC.
>> Related: Study: One-Third of COVID-19 Patients Report At Least One Long-Term Symptom
Meanwhile, the disease – for which there is no proven treatment or guide to recovery – is increasingly viewed by health experts as its own public health problem, “given the substantial impact it has on. ‘it has on society, ranging from rising health care costs to economic and productivity losses, ”the network reported.
According to Reuters, several academic studies have attempted to quantify and contextualize the impact of the post COVID condition to date, with the following results:
- An Oxford University study of more than 270,000 COVID-19 survivors found at least one long-term symptom in 37% of participants, with symptoms more common in people who had to be hospitalized.
- A Harvard University study involving more than 52,000 COVID-19 survivors whose infections had only been mild or asymptomatic suggested that long-lasting COVID conditions may affect patients younger than 65 more often.
“A very common feature is the relapsing and remitting nature of the disease, where you feel like you’ve recovered and then it comes back to you,” said Nisreen Alwan, associate professor of public health at the University of Southampton, when of a press conference. Online webinar hosted in September by the British Medical Journal to discuss the diagnosis, management and prognosis of long-term COVID, CNBC reported.
“It’s a constant cycle of disappointment, not just for you, but for the people around you who really want you to get well,” she added, reflecting on her own battle with the lingering illness.
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