By JADE RUSSELL
PAN American Health Organisation (PAHO) director Carissa Etienne has urged countries in the region to prepare health systems now on how to deal with post COVID -19 conditions.
During a virtual briefing yesterday, Dr Etienne said many individuals who suffered from COVID-19 or continue to experience symptoms are going through a post-COVID condition known as “long COVID”.
“Whether they experienced mild, severe, or critical COVID-19, they continue to experience COVID-like symptoms for three months or more after their initial infection,” Dr Etienne said. These are the people with post-COVID condition,” she noted.
Some studies have estimated that 10-20 percent of people who had COVID may develop the condition.
The best way to avoid being affected by the condition is by taking the necessary precautions to prevent being infected by COVID-19.
The most common symptom is severe and persistent fatigue.
“People may also experience shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell, and other respiratory, cognitive, and sensory symptoms,” Dr Etienne also said.
It was revealed that persons with underlying health issues, who are unvaccinated, and with other risk factors such as asthma, and those who smoke or vape are particularly at risk for this condition.
“WHO has identified three “Rs” to guide our actions. The first “R” is recognition. We must actively identify people who are suffering from post- COVID condition, so they can get the care and support they need.
“The impact of post-COVID condition is broad, but there is still stigma around it, and not enough healthcare workers are trained to recognise the condition. And even fewer have the expertise to help someone manage their symptoms.
“This is a real condition, and it must be dealt with by applying robust policies and guidance. It is also crucial that we recognise the impact that post COVID condition has on people’s lives and work alongside those affected to ensure that their voices are heard, and that they play an active role to guide national and regional responses.
“The second “R” is rehabilitation. We must ensure our health workforce can support the sizable population who will experience post-COVID symptoms.
“This includes supporting the training and development of physical therapists, occupational and speech therapists. mental health professionals, nurses and doctors who can work together to address post- COVID condition in a holistic manner.
“Because the symptoms are so varied, managing post-COVID condition requires a multi- disciplinary approach.
“PAHO has established a working group to develop patient care guidance and rehabilitation guides to help advance health workers’ knowledge of these conditions. We plan to launch these .
“And the last “R” is research. We still do not know enough about post-COVID condition,” she said.
In addition, health officials reported that in the Caribbean COVID-19 weekly cases have been plateauing for the past two consecutive weeks. There was a 3.2% increase observed during the last week and deaths rose some 13.3 percent.
The latest COVID number of new infections in The Bahamas was 21 on June 27. Nineteen cases were recorded at New Providence and two at Grand Bahama.
With the increase of COVID-19 cases PAHO stressed the pandemic is not over and that there is still much work to be done.