WHO acknowledges ‘long Covid’, recommends follow-up care

ITALY. In this photo taken in December 2020, a nurse tends to a patient inside a Covid-19 intensive care unit at a hospital in Rome. (File)

(UPDATED) The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that confirmed and suspected coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) patients who have persistent, new or changing symptoms should have access to follow-up care, including the use of low-dose anticoagulants.

In a statement issued Tuesday night, January 26, 2021 (local time), WHO said it revised the clinical management guidelines for Covid-19 patients after evidence was gathered on the so-called “long Covid” condition.

Long Covid patients have complained of fatigue, persisten cough and exercise intolerance.

“Evidence was gathered on the post-coved condition, so-called ‘long Covid’, where people who have recovered from Covid-19 continue to have longer-term issues like extreme fatigue, persistent cough and exercise intolerance,” WHO said.

A series of consultations will be held in February 2021 to reach consensus on a description of this condition and its subtypes, and case definitions.

This scientific understanding will inform the name of the condition. The consultations will include a broad range of stakeholders, including patient groups.

For Covid-19 patients at home, WHO suggests the use of pulse oximetry to measure oxygen levels in the blood. This needs to be coordinated with other aspects of home care, such as education for the patient and care provider and regular follow-up of the patient.

For hospitalized patients, WHO suggests the use of low-dose anticoagulants for preventing the blood clots forming in blood vessels (thrombosis).

For hospitalized patients who are taking supplemental oxygen (including high-flow nasal oxygen) or non-invasive ventilation, WHO suggests positioning patients on their stomachs to increase oxygen flow (awake prone positioning).

The guidelines also include recommendations on the use of care bundles to systematize care provision for Covid-19 patients, as well as a recommendation to favor clinical judgement over models in making decisions for the patient’s care.

The recommendations were made by an independent panel of experts, the Guideline Development Group, on the basis of detailed rapid reviews of all available evidence.

In Manila, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Wednesday, January 27, that the long Covid condition is still anecdotal in the Philippines.

"Everything is anecdotal at this point, although there are some groups of doctors who are studying this kind of effects on people who have had Covid. Let's wait for the results," she said in a virtual forum Wednesday.

Vergeire said the DOH's regional epidemiological units were monitoring such conditions. (Marites Villamor-Ilano / SunStar Philippines)


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