NewsLong Covid: "Enormous increase in knowledge in recent months"

Long Covid: "Enormous increase in knowledge in recent months"

In the wake of the corona waves, another wave of illness is building up: that of those Covid patients who are not healthy long after their recovery. Can vaccinations break this wave?

Berlin – When the corona pandemic picked up speed in spring 2020, the focus was naturally on treating the acutely ill.

Only in the course of the following months did it become clear that Covid disease not only poses an acute threat to life, but can also affect the health of those affected for a very long time. That is not rare: In the first weeks after the illness, according to current expert estimates, around ten percent of Covid patients have to deal with persistent complaints that are directly related to the illness. What about the treatment and care of these people today, shortly before the end of the second Corona year?

“The increase in knowledge over the past few months has been enormous,” says doctor Dominik Buckert from the Ulm University Hospital. “The overall picture of the disease is no longer as nebulous as it was at the beginning of the pandemic.” The complaints can therefore be roughly divided into two groups. Damage to organs such as the heart or lungs can be detected in around 10 to 20 percent of those affected. Significantly more struggled with more functional impairments such as lower resilience, concentration disorders or persistent smell and taste disorders.

Good prospects for recovery

The German patient guidelines define complaints that persist longer than four weeks after infection as long covid, as post covid when the complaints restrict everyday life for more than 12 weeks after infection. While the symptoms are moderate in some patients, others are completely deprived of it, at least temporarily. After all, the chances of recovery are good for many people – at least in the long term. “If it can be proven that an organ has changed, it doesn’t always have to be dramatic,” says Buckert. Inflammatory changes in the heart, for example, could permanently damage the heart muscle, but often heal completely. And: “There are established therapy concepts for treating the symptoms,” says Buckert.

Carmen Scheibenbogen from the Berlin Charité primarily deals with patients who have functional impairments after a Covid 19 disease. The doctor heads the Charité’s Fatigue Center – and fatigue is one of the most common symptoms associated with Post Covid Syndrome. The center describes fatigue as exhaustion that occurs in connection with illnesses. According to the disk arch, post-Covid patients often experience headache and muscle pain or mental impairments such as poor concentration.

The treatment of patients with fatigue is based on the individual symptoms for which there are treatment concepts. These include rehabilitation measures, physiotherapy, respiratory therapy and medication. “For many, the symptoms improve, for others they persist,” says Scheibenbogen.

Vaccination protects against Long Covid

And in view of the recently high number of newly infected people, the number of Post Covid patients is unlikely to decrease in the foreseeable future. After all, experts assume that, thanks to the vaccinations, it will at least not increase to the same extent. “In principle, vaccination also provides good protection against long covid,” says Scheibenbogen, for example. This is mainly due to the fact that people who have been vaccinated, even if they become infected, often have no or only mild symptoms. “With a mild course, at least organ changes occur less often,” says the Ulm physician Buckert. The functional symptoms did not correlate so well with the severity of the disease. That means: Even patients with a mild course of the disease can develop persistent symptoms.

Initial studies on the protective effect of vaccinations indicate at least a reduced risk of persistent symptoms. In a study published in the specialist magazine “The Lancet Infectious Disease”, researchers evaluated data from an app that Covid patients could use to report complaints. People who had been vaccinated twice complained of persistent (more than 28 days after infection) symptoms after a breakthrough infection than those who had not been vaccinated, and the disease often passed without any symptoms. A second, not yet published study concludes that a double vaccination after a breakthrough infection protects against many, but not all, Long Covid complaints. dpa

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