The deaths of some COVID-19 survivors weeks after their recovery have left physicians and health authorities wondering whether the deaths were the consequences of the viral disease.
After at least 10 such COVID-19 survivors’ deaths were reported in the media physicians said that their causes of deaths were the failure of organs that were seriously damaged by the COVID-19 infection.
Health authorities, however, said that they were still busy with tackling the immediate onslaught of the disease and that they did not follow up on COVID-19 survivors after hospital discharge.
‘Initially, medical science determined that the virus affected the respiratory system and now it is found that the virus also affects other organs of the human bodies, a reason for long-term sufferings,’ virologist Nazrul Islam, also former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told New Age.
After testing negative for COVID-19 following recovery, many patients feel relaxed, while the absence of the virus in the human body does not mean that the patient recovered, he said.
On September 10, Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority board chairman MA Rashid Sarkar died while undergoing treatment at a hospital in the capital about one and a half months after his recovery from COVID-19. He was 67.
WASA managing director Taksim A Khan told the media that Rashid was admitted to Bangladesh Specialised Hospital on July 16 with COVID-19 symptoms and later he was put on ventilation as his condition deteriorated.
On September 1, Rashid was shifted in a cabin as his condition improved, Taksim said, adding that Rashid was again shifted to the incentive care unit just two days later.
He said that physicians informed them that some organs of Rashid were affected and became dysfunctional after COVID-19.
On September 8, former director of Institute of Public Health in Dhaka Nirmalendu Chowdhury expired 23 days after he had tested negative for COVID-19.
The physician had tested positive for the virus on August 3 and admitted to a Bogura hospital only to be transferred to Dhaka later on August 5 for batter treatment.
On August 16, 59-year-old Nirmalendu tested negative for the virus but he suffering serious lung infection.
On May 7, a residence of sadar upazila in Chandpur Ali Azam died at his residence with chest pain eight days after he had recovered form COVID-19.
Chandpur sadar health and family planning officer Sajeda Begum said that 65 years-old Azam tested negative for COVID-19 twice after he recovered from the disease.
The fact that a range of ailments can still be attributed to the virus after the patients recovered from the disease poses a new challenge for medical professionals and medical science as a whole, said physicians.
They urged the relevant authorities to address the issue as soon as possible.
Though the authorities have no data pertaining to how many people have expired after they had been cured of the new viral disease, professionals believe that the matter should be considered a serious health issue needing immediate attention.
Directorate General of Health Services director and spokesperson Habibur Rahman admitted to New Age that the department does not follow up on those patients who were released from hospitals.
He said that it was a new issue for the department and it would be addressed soon and added that the authority has no mechanism of monitoring the patients after they had been released.
He said that the department would try to gather experiences from abroad to learn how to handle the issue.
Virologist Nazrul said that globally patients that experience either a relapse or develop other symptoms led physicians to a hypothesis that remote organ damage and dysfunctionality — heart, lung, liver, brain and others — emerged after COVID-19.
He said that deaths of COVID-19 survivors mean that a new problem emerged and the authorities should take immediate steps to address it.
Freedom fighter-doctor professor Quazi Quamruzzaman told New Age that there was no system in place in the country to follow-up on the patients after they are discharged from hospitals.
He suggested that the authorities should develop a healthcare system to ensure accountable and decentralised monitoring.
He said that the health department should monitor the condition of the released COVID-19 patients, especially the aged and high-risk comorbid patients.
He said that the government needs to set a plan and develop the necessary mechanism to address the issue considering it as a post-COVID threat for the recovered patients.
The medical authorities should establish a strong communication channel with the recovered patients at least for the sake of research, he observed.
Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research director Tahmina Shirin said that the IEDCR was yet to start any work in this regard.
She said that work can only commence if instruction form the health ministry or the DGHS reaches her organisation.
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