Studying COVID-19 in Healthcare Workers: An insight into the natural history and presentations of long covid?

Studying COVID-19 in Healthcare Workers: An insight into the natural history and presentations of long covid?

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The Hidden Epidemic

Healthcare workers (HCWs) were the first line of ‘defence’ against the onslaught that was the COVID-19 pandemic.  In their persistent efforts to stave off this deluge that overcame many a health system, the front line themselves were the most exposed cohort to the very sickness that befell the patients. Not long after the onset of the pandemic, there were reports of patients suffering from prolonged COVID-19 symptoms – exhaustion, insomnia, chronic fatigue, palpitations. Due to the very variable nature of the symptoms and its onset, it was difficult to gather data on a large number of patients suffering from ‘long COVID’.

The Key Interrogative

Studies evaluating long COVID symptoms were few and far between, and Indian representation was simply non-existent. Puzzled with this conundrum, we kept trying to devise a way to tackle this information drought. And then it struck us – The HCW cohort was perhaps the most exposed to COVID-19, with many having infected with the SARS-Cov-2 virus at some point during the pandemic. Even after accounting for survivorship bias, we suspected, there would still be personnel who faced or were continuing to face prolonged symptoms after the acute phase of the SARS-Cov-2 infection. Best of all, this ready cohort was available under one roof – ‘the hospital’ – and therefore easily approachable for data gathering. Thus, we set about carrying out the first study that analyses the demographic and clinical symptomatology of a large cohort of HCWs while reporting key rates of vaccinations, breakthrough infections, repeat SARS-Cov-2 infections and, perhaps most importantly, statistically significant predictors of Long Covid.

The Task at Hand

A team of around 16 data collectors cast their net across the hospital and medical school, systematically approaching all healthcare associated personnel with a detailed questionnaire that aimed to capture as much information as possible regarding anything related to SARS-Cov-2 infection. It was slow going initially, but towards the end of the 12-week period, we had the largest cohort that was surveyed on long Covid in India!

Exciting Results!

There were some striking pertinent findings! From more than 3,300 participants, close to 80% had received atleast one dose of vaccination. One in five had tested COVID-19 positive atleast once, and 25% of these cases were post-vaccination breakthrough cases! There were also 25 cases who suffered from SARS-Cov-2 twice, and interestingly, all of these were vaccinated individuals.  

Long Covid was our key focus, and we found 216 individuals who were suffering or had suffered from some form of prolonged COVID symptomatology, with the most common symptom being persistent fatigue ranging from 12 weeks to 6 months after the time of infection. There was an interesting mosaic of symptoms that had some form of temporal relationship with initial SARS-Cov-2 infection. We believe this can further assist decision-making authorities when categorizing Long Covid symptomatology. Furthermore, statistical analysis uncovered that there was a significantly higher risk long covid with the female sex, alcohol consumption and the Blood Group B.

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Life Sciences > Health Sciences > Clinical Medicine > Diseases > Infectious Diseases > COVID19

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