‘It is very important to keep track of any unusual symptoms or effects on health’

Many Bhutanese people are under the impression that Covid-19 is just like flu and people, who suffered mild or asymptomatic Covid-19, do not know of the virus’s brutal side effects in the long run.

According to Dr. Al-Aly, the director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center and chief of Research and Education Service at Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System, in his recent study stated about new evidence revealing that anyone infected with Covid-19 is at higher risk for heart issues including clots, inflammation, and arrhythmias (a risk that persists even in relatively healthy people long after the illness has passed).

Dr. Sithar Dorjee, the chairperson of the Health Ministry’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) in an interview with Business Bhutan’s Sr. Reporter Chencho Dema talks about the long-term impact of Covid-19 and whether people should be worried.

Q. Dr. Al-Aly, the director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center and chief of Research and Education Service at Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System in his recent study had found a significant risk of heart problems in people a year after being diagnosed with Covid-19. What are the long-term impacts of the virus on the health of those who have been affected by Covid-19?

A.  I read this article but it was based on previous variants and not the current variant. Omicron variant is affecting mainly the upper respiratory tract rather than deep lung tissues and therefore does not cause severe disease. Also, their studies may include a large fraction of unvaccinated individuals. Whereas our Bhutanese population is almost all vaccinated. Therefore, the Omicron may not have such long Covid-19 effects. However, there are uncertainties.

Q. How important is it to understand the long-term health implications of Covid-19 on the health of the population?

 A. It is very important to keep track of any unusual symptoms or effects on health. The Ministry of Health (MoH) has assigned a dedicated team of doctors to monitor every individual suffering from the Omicron; be it at home, facility or hospital isolation, and monitor any unusual long Covid-19 effects. A follow up and research on long Covid-19 will be carried out following the positive cases.

Q. There are people who tested positive despite vaccination. In this context, will the health consequences in the long run be similar to those who have not been vaccinated?

A. In general it should be less compared to those who are not vaccinated.

Q. So the long-term health consequences are higher for those infected with the delta variant than for those infected by the Omicron?

A. The paper describes previous variants and for the Omicron no information.

Q. Two years after the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, is there any research or study on the long-term effects of the delta virus conducted?

A. Research has been conducted, but the result is awaited. Since we expect to have time, therefore we will design a long research plan for Covid-19.