Rehab vital for 'long COVID' patients, says expert © Getty Images

Rehab vital for ‘long COVID’ patients, says expert

Dr Michael Beckles, consultant respiratory and general physician, has seen a number of patients suffering from persistent symptoms.

Counsellors and psychologists are an important part of coronavirus rehabilitation as people suffer from long-term effects of COVID-19, an expert has said.

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Patients who have already had to self-isolate, and then don’t recover as quickly as expected, can feel disheartened and need support.

Dr Michael Beckles, consultant respiratory and general physician at The Wellington Hospital, and the Royal Free NHS Foundation, said he has seen a number of patients suffering from ongoing effects of the disease. He told the PA news agency the main symptom being reported is breathlessness, with patients also describing a brain fog.

Dr Beckles said: “I’m seeing more and more patients who’ve had COVID-19 infection confirmed in the laboratory and on X-ray, who have cleared the infection, and are now still presenting with persistent symptoms.

“Some of those symptoms are respiratory, such as breathlessness, chronic cough. And some have other symptoms such as what the patients describe as brain fog, and I understand that to be a difficulty in concentration. Some still have loss of sense of taste or smell.”

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He added that it can be frustrating for ‘long COVID’ patients because investigations after the infection can be normal, yet the symptoms persist.

Dr Beckles is part of a team of specialists at the new post COVID-19 rehabilitation unit at The Wellington Hospital.

He said: “I’ve seen a couple of patients who prior to having COVID-19 infection were people who went to the gym three or four times a week – one in particular did high intensity spin classes.

“And both of them have found it really difficult to resume those activities. These are people who are young and by definition, fit, because of their activity level in the gym.

“And they’re still finding – between 10 and 16 weeks post confirmed infection with COVID-19 – with extensive investigations that are normal, they are finding it difficult to resume their normal gym activities.”

Dr Beckles told PA: “I’ve got patients who are busy in the household who find it difficult just to go up and down the stairs at home, when previously they’ve been able to manage those.”

Saying that some patients are scared, Dr Beckles added: “I think that’s one of the key areas where the rehabilitation group helps, in terms of access to counsellors and psychologists.

“Because you can imagine it’s awful. Having an infection – it is awful being sick and at home and in these times a lot of patients have been isolated and they are literally by themselves.

“They want to be feeling better. So if we give them a trajectory for improvement, say six weeks, and then they feel no better by six weeks people start to feel disheartened. They may be down, and they’ll need help and support through that.”

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A small study by researchers at Trinity College, Dublin suggests more than half of patients who get coronavirus suffer persistent fatigue, regardless of the seriousness of their infection. The research found that even 10 weeks after recovering from COVID-19, people reported ongoing tiredness and exhaustion.

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While a separate study, the COVID Symptom Study app, has found that tens of thousands of people have had symptoms of illness for more than three months, with some sufferers having difficulty climbing the stairs or going shopping. While some people have a mild form of illness, others have been seriously affected.

Can I get the coronavirus from a parcel?

It’s hypothetically possible, but parcels pose a very small risk.

A US study found that the coronavirus can survive for up to 24 hours on cardboard (and paper is likely to be similar). So for the parcel to be contaminated, someone with COVID-19 would have had to touch or cough on your parcel within the past day.

The chances of this are low, but common sense advice would be to wash your hands with soap and water after opening the parcel, and then again after you’ve disposed of the packaging – especially if you or anyone else in your household is in one of the vulnerable groups.

The same study found that the virus can survive for up to three days on hard, shiny surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel – which is why door handles are particularly good vectors for the virus. So, if you receive anything packaged in plastic, such as takeaway deliveries, make sure to wash your hands after touching it, and especially before eating.

We don’t yet know how long the virus can survive on smartphone screens, but it’s likely to be up to three days. This means that you should ideally clean your phone with disinfectant wipes (Apple recommends 70 per cent isopropyl alcohol wipes), at least once a day.

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