An outpatient care coordinator discusses the systemic and psychiatric symptoms of COVID-19 long haulers, as well as differences in outcomes based on vaccination.
At the time of publication, 7-day averages for new COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing toward 200,000 in the US, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has incurred major outbreaks among unvaccinated Americans and increased rates of breakthrough infections among the vaccinated as well.
With each outbreak, there’s a likelihood that more “long haul” COVID-19 cases will present from initially acute infections. As highlighted by Tariq Cheema, MD, in the first segment of an interview with HCPLive, the presentation and understanding of these patients are diverse, complication, and still forming.
Much has been learned about long COVID-19 disease in the last year, but there’s many more depths to understand still.
In the second segment of the interview, Cheema, Chief of the Division of Pulmonary / Critical Care Medicine at the Allegheny Health Network, discussed the underlying burdens of long COVID-19 in patients being treated at his team’s outpatient centers. Most notably, he described depressive and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) as a frequent player in long COVID-19 patients.
“That is by far the most overwhelming symptom that people have,” Cheema said. “And we’re looking at this in some studies to see if this is directly related to COVID-19, or if it’s related to everything surrounding COVID.”
Cheema also discussed the key improvements to achieve in long-haul COVID-19 patients, such as the mitigation of disabling effects. Exercise and resumption of routine activity is vital for not only psychiatric effects of the disease, but in improving patients’ ability to combat multifactorial symptoms.
On the note of COVID-19 vaccine benefit against long-term disease, Cheema estimated that approximately 80-85% of those being treated in outpatient centers are unvaccinated. He predicts only half of such affected patients are now willing or interested in receiving a vaccine after their recovery.
“They still feel that this is not something they should get, which blows our mind as health care physicians,” Cheema said. “You’ve gone through this, and you’re still so adamant you don’t want a vaccine?”