SINGAPORE: The lingering symptoms of COVID-19, known commonly as "long COVID", adds to the case that COVID-19 is not like a common seasonal flu, said the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) director of medical services Kenneth Mak.
The World Health Organization describes the condition as one experienced by people who continue to have COVID-19 symptoms that last for weeks, sometimes stretching to months, after recovery from acute illness.
Singapore's National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) has been studying long COVID and following up with recovered cases from hospitals here, said Assoc Prof Mak, responding to a question at a multi-ministerial task force press conference on Thursday (Jun 24).
“Long COVID syndrome has been described in several different countries, and we still don't have a good, firm grip in terms of what causes long COVID syndrome, how it manifests and how we can address the degree of disability that some recovered cases have as a result of long COVID syndrome,” he added.
Adding that NCID “may be ready soon” to provide further information on the prevalence of long COVID syndrome in Singapore, he said the information will be shared when available.
“This is one of the consequences of COVID-19 infection and reinforces the concern that COVID-19 infection is not something just like a common seasonal flu,” said Assoc Prof Mak.
“There are some patients who have severe outcomes, or long, permanent disabilities to some extent. And these adverse sequelae (conditions) lasting for long periods of time - it's not something to underplay.”
Anecdotal reports have also suggested that vaccination provides “some remedy” from long COVID syndrome, he noted.
“Some long-standing sufferers of long COVID syndrome have reported improvement in the symptoms they experience after vaccination,” said Assoc Prof Mak.
“This may potentially be another reason to encourage even recovered cases to seek vaccination.”
The Health Ministry said in November 2020 that it had not received any reports of long COVID in Singapore at the time.
Patients in other countries have reported severe fatigue, breathlessness, joint pain and other symptoms.
This could occur weeks or months after apparently recovering from COVID-19, and it has affected both people who have had relatively mild symptoms and those who suffered severe illness from coronavirus infection, reports have said.