Help Patients Suffering from Long-Term Symptoms Find Clinics

Which medical institutions should treat patients suffering from the aftereffects of COVID-19? It is hoped that the government and medical institutions will work together to release necessary information and improve the framework to support patients.

Long-term effects experienced by novel coronavirus patients include such symptoms as fatigue, poor concentration, coughing and sleep problems. According to some theories, the symptoms are caused by virus particles that remain in the body, or by abnormalities in the immune system following infection. However, the exact cause is unclear.

According to a study conducted by the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, 20%-30% of patients surveyed complained of what appeared to be aftereffects, such as poor concentration, even more than one year after they were infected. Many patients seem to suffer symptoms that last longer than expected.

As it is still unclear why some people suffer long-term following infection, many medical institutions are reluctant to treat them. Some patients struggle to find medical institutions that will treat them, despite visiting multiple facilities.

Only 40% of the nation’s 47 prefectural governments have posted online the names of medical institutions that treat patients with long-term effects, probably because of difficulties in obtaining agreements from the facilities to release the data, among other reasons. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is calling for local governments to make public the names of such medical institutions by late April.

Since no effective treatment has been established, medical institutions have no choice but to try various approaches against long COVID. Even so, access to medical institutions that listen to concerns, check for other possible diseases and ease symptoms would bring comfort to patients suffering from long-term effects.

The ministry has compiled a guide for treating long-term effects based on expertise that has been built up in the medical field. It is hoped that medical institutions will earnestly treat long-COVID patients by referring to the guide, and aim to develop a cure.

The medical field must collect data on a large number of patients, have it analyzed by experts and share the findings. Hopefully, medical institutions and local governments will work together to create a mechanism to collect data on a large scale.

Osaka University Hospital, the Miyazaki municipal government and a tech company have launched a project through which residents who have been infected can report long-term effects via an app. This case can serve as a useful reference.

A survey by a pharmaceutical company found that people who took a COVID-19 drug developed by the firm had a lower risk of developing long-term symptoms. The drug has been granted emergency approval. In addition, some reports state that people who were vaccinated were less likely to experience aftereffects.

In the future, it will be necessary to determine the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and drugs in preventing long-term symptoms. It is hoped that initiatives will be implemented to reduce as much as possible the number of patients suffering from long-term effects.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 3, 2023)