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Doctors call for strategy for ‘long covid’

‘Long covid’ should have a national strategy, say public health doctors

The Portuguese Association of Public Health Doctors (ANMSP) says a specific national strategy for ‘long covid’ should be created, similar to the existing health programmes in Portugal for various diseases.

“We have many ‘priority and non-priority’ national programmes. There should be a ‘long covid’ strategy that integrates the different levels of care, the different specialities and the different pathologies” associated with this clinical condition, the president of ANMSP told Lusa today.

According to Gustavo Tato Borges, as primary healthcare is the “entry door of the user” to the country’s healthcare system, it is up to “doctors at the base of the pyramid to identify the cases that need to be sent for hospital referral”.

For this referral to be effective, these doctors “will be fundamental” and should be “within this scheme and well oriented”, said the president of the association, adding that a national health strategy should be created for ‘long covid’, as already exists for several diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, mental health, cancer, pneumonia, among others.

According to Tato Borges, some of the leading national hospitals already have a multidisciplinary consultation for this clinical condition, but “there is still no national strategy” that defines the benchmarks for these situations and foresees “how primary healthcare can help”.

“There is immense symptomatology that needs to be studied, and I think we still don’t have this process fully implemented in Portugal. It will be an interesting step for it to happen,” the ANMSP president said, pointing to symptoms such as:

  • breathing difficulties
  • decreased physical functional capacity
  • loss of reasoning ability
  • changes in sleep patterns

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), between 10% and 20% of people with Covid-19 suffer symptoms after recovering from the acute phase of the infection, an “unpredictable and debilitating” condition that also affects mental health.

“Although data is scarce, recent estimates suggest that 10-20% of people with Covid-19 experience ongoing illness for weeks or months after the acute phase of the infection,” the WHO European Health Report 2021 released this month revealed.

“The absolute number of cases is expected to increase as new waves of infection occur in the European region and further research and surveillance are needed” into this specific condition caused by Covid-19.

At least 6,011,769 people have died from Covid-19 worldwide since the pandemic began, according to the latest report by Agence France-Presse.

The disease is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, detected in late 2019 in Wuhan, a city in central China.

The Omicron variant, which spreads and mutates rapidly, has become dominant since it was first detected in November in South Africa.

Source: Lusa