More than half of all victims of Long Covid are aged 25-45
Shamsunnahar Arohi, 36, works for a government company. In September last year, she tested positive for Covid-19.
Arohi spent 16 days in hospital before resuming her official duties, thinking she had recovered. However, less than a month passed before she realized something was amiss.
She was constantly feeling tired, having trouble remembering things, and plagued by an incessant cough as well as breathing problems. She decided to revisit the doctor, fearing that she had contracted Covid once again.
Although she had not contracted Covid-19 again, the doctor confirmed that Arohi was suffering from Long Covid. She was also diagnosed with diabetes, despite having no family history of the condition.
In the first five months after her Long Covid diagnosis, Arohi’s health saw almost no improvement. Now, almost a year since the diagnosis, she no longer has the cough but still suffers from fatigue and memory-related problems.
“I used to walk to the office every day, but now I can barely walk for 30 seconds before feeling very tired. I have been on the doctor's special alert for a year now, but the fatigue is just not going away,” Arohi said.
Long Covid has been studied by a team of about 17 researchers from Jessore University of Science and Technology (JUST), the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP), and two universities in the United Kingdom and the United States.
More than 22,000 Covid-19 patients in Bangladesh participated in the study, which was conducted from May 2020 till May this year.
According to the study, about 15% of Covid-19 patients in Bangladesh suffer from Long Covid. Recovery from Long Covid may take at least three months, and in some cases over a year.
More than 50% Long Covid patients aged 25-45
Dr Md Feroz Kabir, one of the researchers involved in the study and chairman of the department of physiotherapy and rehabilitation at JUST, told Dhaka Tribune the study had found that more than 50% of those who suffered from Long Covid in Bangladesh were aged 25-45.
“Older people are thought to have more complications after recovery, so it is surprising that more than half of those affected by Long Covid are relatively young,” he said.
Dr Feroz Kabir further said a significant number of people were found to have developed health conditions, such as diabetes or diseases of the heart and lungs, after being infected with Covid-19.
“We do not yet have a scientific explanation for why people who are infected with Covid sometimes develop other health conditions. Research on the matter is ongoing both abroad and in the country,” he added.
The study also found that women were more likely to be affected by Long Covid than men. The possible reasons for this may be differences in diet and amount of physical activity.
Medicine specialist Dr ABM Abdullah said health complications after Covid might be the result of the body’s immune system becoming overly active when combating the coronavirus.
“Problems such as weakness and shortness of breath usually remain. There is a feeling of body aches, pain in the joints and muscles, fatigue and weakness. In addition, many people have problems with vision loss, insomnia, and short-term memory loss, hypertension, anxiety and mental health problems. 4% to 5% of people with this type of problem are coming for treatment,” he said.
He added that the coronavirus affected the lungs the most, but it also affected the heart, lungs, kidneys and liver.
ICU patients at higher risk of Long Covid
Dr Feroz Kabir said patients suffering from severe Covid and needing to be admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) were more likely to develop Long Covid, as their bodies grow weaker when confined to the hospital.
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“Lying in a hospital bed for long periods of time reduces the patient’s muscle mass, and the patient becomes extremely weak. It takes a long time for the lost muscles to regenerate,” he added.
ABM Abdullah said physiotherapy, light breathing exercises and a nutritious diet were recommended for Long Covid patients.
He recommended setting up more rehabilitation and physiotherapy centres to support Long Covid patients.
Dr Feroz Kabir said: “The UK has set up 60 rehabilitation and physiotherapy centres dedicated to treatment of Long Covid. Their Long Covid rate is just 9%, which is lower than in Bangladesh.”