For the majority affected, COVID-19 manifests as an acute respiratory infection, with clinical features lasting up to two weeks. However, several studies are underway to explore the mechanics behind a post-COVID phenomenon aptly named “long hauler syndrome” or “long COVID”.

For many older adults, influenza alone has devastating and well researched long-term effects due to the decline in immune system and pre-existing comorbidities. However long Covid does not differentiate between young and old, and post-Covid fallout is affecting people of all ages and walks of life.

For most people, the clinical presentation of COVID has involved the flu-like symptoms generally described by health authorities. For others, however, respiratory, cardiac and psychological symptoms, including breathlessness, palpitations, fatigue and brain fog, have also been reported.

These symptoms are experienced into the convalescent timeline where patients would usually be expected to have recovered. And while it’s not that having a residual cough or fatigue is unusual post–viral infection, but symptoms, often classified as acute illness, are in some cases lasting beyond six months.

Unfortunately, many are reporting long COVID symptoms unlike acute viral infection, such as pins and needles, diabetes and hypertension, skin rash and bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting, to name a few (see appendix 1 of this link).

The long haul on long Covid

Much of the rapid and current research around COVID-19 has gone toward understanding the pathology of the virus and developing a vaccine. Now research must focus on how the body responds and how its immune system behaves post-infection. The Lancet identifies where research should be aimed, in search of specific answers (see appendix 2).

How many are suffering from long Covid manifestations? What long term diseases predispose patients to it? Is it caused by ongoing inflammation? Is there residual infection? Are there genetic predispositions? Is it of immunological origin (due to a devastating assault on the immune system)?

These are just some of the many questions raised that are still awaiting answers.

Reading and hearing from those experiencing the long-term effects of COVID-19 confirms the ongoing importance of a robust and targeted infection prevention and control response. As always, prevention is the best cure.

Vaccination and vigilance are two cornerstones of infection control. Keeping your aged care facility free of infections is no easy task. Bug Control have over twenty-five years of infection control experience in aged care across Australia and New Zealand. Have problems? We have solutions. Contact us now.

References

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/65over.htm

https://www.ajmc.com/view/influenza-in-older-patients-a-call-to-action-and-recent-updates-for-vaccinations

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-30992030701-5/fulltext

https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1741-7007-10-6

https://www.mayoclinic.org/coronavirus-long-term-effects/art-20490351

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-tragedy-of-the-post-covid-long-haulers-2020101521173

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/300218943/COVID-19-virus-longhaulers-fighting-to-be-heard

New Zealand Research:

http://www.brnz.ac.nz/news-events/brain-research-new-zealand-funds-covid-19-research-projects