FACT-CHECK: Will survivors of COVID-19 permanently suffer almost 50 per cent lungs damage? Placed on lifetime medication?By Olugbenga ADANIKIN on March 24, 2020
AS of Monday 23rd March, over 2,182 deaths have been recorded in Spain due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Globally, World Health Organisation (WHO) put the casualty figure at over 9,000 deaths, and 210,000 cases.
Nigeria has just recorded one death and 36 cases.
But, the claim recently flying across the social media, as a result of the increasing number of cases is that the survivors of COVID-19 would suffer almost 50 per cent lungs damage.
The claim which allegedly came from an unidentified consultant at the Infectious Disease Unit of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) stated that the survivors would be placed on medication for the rest of their life.
“…those who recover from COVID-19 suffers close to 50 per cent of lungs damage, permanently, which means they will be on medication forever or they may die from complications in a few years after recovery from COVID-19,” the unidentified source stated, attributing the claims to an unknown medical practitioner.
“Covid-19 will almost certainly be fatal to anyone who has respiratory illness, kidney or liver disease before infection because the organs are usually its target.”
Medical experts since the COVID-19 outbreak have expressed concerns on likely adverse effects on survivors of the virus infection. They are worried about the strength of the lungs and its functionality aftet victim’s recovery.
But a forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden in a recent report says it would be too early to determine the future impact of the COVID-19 infection on the survived cases.
Though, he was worried there could be wounds on the lungs of the lucky survivors, there are no clear proofs from the WHO to affirm the permanent damage to the respiratory organ.
“Those who will die will largely die from lung infection,” Baden said as reported by FOX News.
“We don’t know how many people will have scarring from the lungs that will be present five, 10, 15 years from now, and cause shortness of breath and illness then.
“We only have about a month of experience here.”
A different report, detailing how experts in the United Kingdom Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine (FICM) maintained an almost similar position that victims of the COVID-19 virus would develop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
As a result, it might take up to 15 years for the lungs of COVID-19 survivor to heal.
The syndrome, the report revealed, prevents the victim’s lungs from providing sufficient oxygen to other vital organs in their body system.
“Like many other viral conditions, the effects of coronavirus are not just limited to the lungs. The heart can also be affected, ranging from inflammation (myocarditis) to heart failure,” FICM stressed.
Also, findings based on a study of 12 patients who recovered from the COVID-19 virus in Hong Kong revealed that about three persons had reduced lung function.
But, there are concerns it could be too early to conclude on the long-term implication.
“In some patients, lung function could decline by 20 to 30 per cent after recovery,” Tsang ak-yin, Medical Director, Infectious Diseases Centre at Princess Margaret Hospital, Hong Kong said.
This finding also aligns with the outcome of a study held in Wuhan, where Zhongnam Hospital Wuhan University reportedly analysed 140 lung scans of COVID-19 patients and discovered ‘ground-glass opacity in both lungs of each patient.’
But, it is expected that with further investigations on the recovered COVID-19 patients, it would establish whether the victims have developed scars in the lungs, otherwise known as pulmonary fibrosis or otherwise.
“Over time, the scar tissue can destroy the normal lung and make it hard for oxygen to get into the blood. Low oxygen levels (and the stiff scar tissue itself) can cause shortness of breath, particularly during physical exertion,” the study showed.
While there are several scientific claims that health conditions of COVID-19 survivors might get worse especially, if there are wounds on the lungs due to the infection, studies also revealed the lungs could get healed over time.
In Nigeria, there is no public evidence from the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), that the two discharged cases would be placed on medications for the rest of their lifetime.
There is also no such information from the WHO, except advice that the victims should eat nutritious foods to strengthen their immune system, limit alcohol consumption, smoking and avoid sugary drinks.
“This will not only help you in the long-term, it will also help you fight COVID-19 if you get it,” WHO DG said in its latest briefing held 20 March, 2020.
None of these institutions has made a public statement affirming the claim that survived victims of COVID-19 would have their lungs almost permanently damaged.
Therefore, the claim that survivors of COVID-19 would suffer a permanent but partial lung damage is exagerated and misleading.