After recovering from COVID-19, infected persons may continue to have symptoms beyond three weeks of the onset of the disease. This phenomenon is called post-acute COVID-19, and if the symptoms continue beyond 12 weeks, it is termed as chronic COVID-19. On October 28, the Kerala Health Department issued guidelines to set up post-COVID-19 clinics to take care of people with prolonged symptoms.
The post-COVID-19 symptoms may occur even for people who had a mild case of the disease. However, during this period of prolonged symptoms, the patients will not be infectious.
According to the guidelines, post-COVID-19 clinics should be set up in all Primary, Community and Family Health Centres of the state. They should also be available at Taluk Head Quarters (THQ), District and General Hospitals as well as medical colleges.
Deputy District Medical Officers will be in charge of setting up these clinics in their respective districts. Nodal officers of Non-Communicable Diseases will be in charge at the state-level. Training shall be provided to health workers, including field workers, to be aware of post-COVID-19 management and clinics.
Typically, COVID-19 patients recover two to six weeks after the onset of the disease. Most people may experience mild symptoms after their recovery. In approximately 10 to 15% cases, it progresses to a severe disease, and in 5% cases, patients become critically ill.
The prolonged illnesses may occur even in young people and children without underlying chronic medical conditions. The reason for the continuing symptoms is not known; however, weak or absent antibody response, relapse or re-infection, inflammatory and dysregulated immune responses and mental factors such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may contribute.
This suggests that apart from physical issues, mental health problems also contribute to prolonged cases of COVID-19. Publications on the subject place emphasis on individual reactions to the pandemic-- such as anxiety, stress, conditions related to loneliness, social isolation and so on. Post-acute COVID-19 is often associated with low mood, heightened anxiety and difficulty in sleeping. PTSD may also occur in healthcare workers.
As is the case with the disease, the post-COVID syndrome also tends to affect the elderly more severely.