By Juanita Carnes FNP, Board of Health chair and Joe Rouse, health director
Today is the day we have all been anxiously awaiting. It is the day the Commonwealth ends COVID restrictions. Some guidelines are still in place for public and private transportation, health care facilities and others. We still need to exercise common sense and respect for others during this transition. Businesses may impose any restrictions they are comfortable with. The numbers of cases in the U.S. continue to decline. Approximately 290 million vaccines have been administered in the U.S. About 132 million are fully vaccinated. It is important to still be vigilant with public health measures. Remember that children are not vaccinated yet. Be aware of what is happening in the rest of the world and hope it doesn’t circle back here.
Many lingering issues for individuals, businesses, communities, government, health departments and medical facilities, etc persist beyond this next step in the pandemic. It became readily apparent at the beginning of the pandemic that many patients were suffering from lingering symptoms after acute illness. Unsurprisingly, this was not explored when the allconsuming focus for health care providers was saving lives and stopping the spread. These long term consequences have affected 70% of hospitalized patients as well as patients not hospitalized.
It is now being referred to as “Long COVID” and could potentially become a public health burden. Other terms used are Post-COVID, Post-Acute COVID, Long-Haul COVID and others. An official medical term has not been created yet. Long COVID includes patients who continue to have symptoms approximately 3 weeks after recovery of acute symptoms. The most common persistent symptoms are: fatigue, shortness of breath, sleep disorders, inability to concentrate, depression, anxiety, general pain and discomfort, loss of taste/smell, memory loss, brain fog, chest pain, heart palpitations and fevers.
It is thought that these prolonged effects may be due to a reduced response of the immune system, inflammation or reaction from the immune system, deconditioning, post-traumatic stress and damage to multiple organs. Mounting evidence is suggesting that 1 in 10 people suffer from Long COVID. This estimate would mean there are over 5 million cases.
Management is based on symptoms and is evolving as we learn more about it. Sounds familiar to what we have been through with acute COVID. Vaccinations may help. In a recent survey, 57% of respondents reported an improvement in their symptoms after vaccination. The simplest explanation may be that the vaccination cleared lingering virus particles from the patients’ bodies who’s initial immune response was weak. There is no specific test, diagnostics or care for Long COVID because the symptoms fluctuate for each individual. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you are not alone. Not only does it affect your health, it may affect your mental health, financial security and social welfare. Make an appointment with your doctor. Connect to a support network in your area or on-line. There are some dedicated clinics now. The Survivor Corps website provides an interactive map of the US that highlights post-COVID care centers in each state. We are lucky to have a few clinics in Western Massachusetts. Our long haul mantra is the same: cautious hope, respect, common sense, protect our children and get vaccinated.
Dedicated health department members who have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic are: Debra Mulvenna RN, Assistant Director Evelyn Bristol RN, Steve Cipriani, Health Inspector Thomas Hibert, Health Inspector Cheryl McMordie, Office Manager Crystal Dugay, Kathi Cotugno, CORE coordinator Other Board Members: Margaret Doody, Stan Strzempko MD.
WE KEEP WORKING TO KEEP YOU SAFE
Wear your mask when appropriate or requested. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Avoid large gatherings. Save lives. Look for us in next Saturday’s edition.