Researchers focusing on potential long-term health effects of Covid-19

Covid-19 is a new virus, so doctors, researchers, and health care providers—after starting from scratch—are learning more about the disease all the time.

One of the growing concerns is the possibility that the virus can cause health problems that exist even after the infected individual has recovered.

West Virginia Covid-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh pointed during Wednesday’s briefing to a study that indicates how the disease can affect the heart.

The study, conducted in Germany, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) this week.

The researchers used cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging to observe 100 patients who had recovered from Covid-19. The group was split roughly evenly between men and women.  Two-thirds of the patients recovered at home, while the rest required hospitalization.

Their average age was 49 (45-53) and the average interval between a Covid-19 diagnosis and the CMR was 71 days. Researchers accounted for any pre-Covid cardiac issues.

They found that most of the patients has suffered some impact on their heart from the disease. Seventy-eight had “abnormal CMR findings” and 60 patients had “ongoing myocardial (relating to the muscle tissue of the heart) inflammation.”

Marsh said the study, “Suggests that there are lingering, longer term effects of Covid.” And the German researchers said more study is needed.

Meanwhile, an earlier study published by the American College of Cardiology raises concerns about competitive athletes resuming strenuous exercise too soon after recovering from symptomatic Covid-19.

Again, the focus is on the heart.

“We would emphasize that the individual should start slow and gradually return to their previous levels, while being mindful for any clinical change or new cardiovascular symptoms,” the study said.

The researchers added that those who have suffered an injury to the heart muscle, which the German study indicated is more common than not, “should wait 3-6 months” before deciding whether to return to vigorous exercise.

Under the researchers’ “Return-to-Play” algorithm, competitive athletes and highly active people who are infected but asymptomatic, can slowly return to exercise two weeks from the time of the positive test.

Now, these are just a couple of the many studies that are part of the quickly accumulating body of research on the long-term effects of Covid-19.  It is also critical to keep in mind that the average age of individuals in the German study was 49, while most competitive athletes are much younger.

But the picture is becoming clearer.  “More and more we are getting insights,” Dr. Marsh said.

The virus is not going away, but fortunately we are learning more about it. And as we do, health care professionals and those who get the virus can adjust accordingly.





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