JM | Mar 15, 2023

Research on long COVID projected to last two years -CMO

Tamoy Ashman

Tamoy Ashman / Our Today

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness. (Photo: Rudranath Fraser, JIS)

Dr Jacquiline Bisasor- McKenzie, chief medical officer (CMO) in the ministry of health has projected that the data collection process to assess the effects of long COVID on citizens will take two or more years.

Long COVID or post COVID-19 condition is when a person who tested positive for the virus is experiencing persistent or returning symptoms that continue to affect them, despite no longer having the virus.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some of the most common symptoms of long COVID include fatigue, cognitive disfunction or brain fog and shortness of breath.

While responding to a series of questions posed by Our Today, the CMO said that the National Research Agenda on COVID recently started the data collection process.

“So we don’t have data right now in terms of what’s happening, but we know that persons are having some effects. But its really anecdotal right now, we don’t have numbers. But coming out of the research project we expect that we’ll be able to say more clearly what’s happening or what has happened to our population as a result of COVID,” said Bisasor-McKenzie.

She added that the ministry of health has a clinical group that is working on the after effects of COVID and they are in the process of hiring more persons, because the data collection phase is a big process.

“We’re trying to get back into the communities to reach out to the persons that were confirmed positive and to find out what is happening to them now. That is actually going to take place over probably about two years in terms of getting the data,” said the CMO.

Test tubes labelled “COVID-19 Omicron variant test positive”. (Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)

The WHO has from as far back as 2021 published data about long COVID, and research on the issue is ongoing. Countries such as the United States have also begun their independent research to asses the effects of long COVID.

Dr Janet Diaz, team lead for Clinical Management in the World Health Emergencies said in a video about long COVID that its effects have no set duration. She shared that for some patients, they experienced long COVID for three months, some six months and others nine months.

“It is important for us to carry out our own research, because our population may respond differently and I’m sure that there are going to be common treads globally, but we have to wait to see what the data shows,” said Bisasor-McKenzie.

The CMO added that the literature on post COVID condition has shown that almost all systems can be affected by the virus. She said this means that it is extremely important for the ministry to strengthen its health system and overall ability to detect and respond to clinical care.

Bisasor-McKenzie also urged citizens to get vaccinated against the virus and go back for their booster shots, if they have already been vaccinated. Vaccination sites can be found at health facilities island-wide. Jamaicans are encouraged to visit the ministry’s website to find their closest health centre.

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