COVID-19 may permanently damage lungs, brain: Experts

Experts from Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) said there is growing evidence that the virus causes persistent, or in some cases permanent, damage to the body after recovery. (Getty Images)
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Updated 23 June 2020

COVID-19 may permanently damage lungs, brain: Experts

  • NHS England guidance indicates that the lungs of as many as 30 percent of patients may be damaged or scarred
  • The guidance also said COVID-19 may cause permanent damage to the brain in a quarter of patients who suffer respiratory distress

LONDON: As many as one in three patients who recover from COVID-19 could suffer from long-term damage to the lungs or brain, as well as chronic fatigue and psychological issues, research suggests. 

Experts from Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) said there is growing evidence that the virus causes persistent, or in some cases permanent, damage to the body after recovery.

NHS England guidance reported by the Daily Telegraph newspaper indicates that the lungs of as many as 30 percent of patients may be damaged or scarred if COVID-19 follows the same pattern as similar diseases such as SARS and MERS.

The guidance also said COVID-19 may cause permanent damage to the brain in a quarter of patients who suffer respiratory distress, causing a heightened risk of Alzheimer’s disease and prolonged chronic fatigue.

Dr. Hilary Floyd, clinical director at the NHS Seacole Centre for COVID-19 recovery, said she is worried about how little is known about the long-term consequences of the virus, and she has been shocked by its lasting impacts on younger people.

“We have a couple of patients in their 40s at the moment; we really didn’t expect that,” she said. “These are people who were independent, they might be running their own business, going to the gym, swimming, active — now they’re at the point they can’t get out of bed.”

Some survivors, Floyd said, “may always have some level of debilitation.” In addition to the persistent physical impact of the virus, many patients will also suffer lasting psychological damage.

Dr. Janet Scott, a virus expert at the University of Glasgow-MRC Centre for Virus Research, warned of “post-traumatic stress, anxiety or depression” caused by the physical impact of the virus. 

Both Scott and Floyd warned that there remains a serious lack of clarity on the scale of long-term physical and mental complications caused by the disease.


Religion, no bar: Muslim group cremates Hindus as virus fear grips Mumbai

Updated 7 min 38 sec ago

Religion, no bar: Muslim group cremates Hindus as virus fear grips Mumbai

  • Officials say a majority are under lockdown or afraid to perform last rites

NEW DELHI: Pratamesh Walavalker was always proud of living in a well-connected area with neighbors and relatives who look out for each other.

However, the resident of Dombivali East, nearly 70 kilometers from India’s financial capital Mumbai, experienced a harsh reality check on Thursday.

None of his neighbors or more than 100 relatives responded to his calls for help when his 57-year-old father died of coronavirus-related complications.

Help, he said, finally arrived in the form of Iqbal Mamdani and his group of Muslim volunteers, who took his father’s body to a cremation ground for his last rites.

“No one came to our help, not even my close neighbor. There is so much panic among people about COVID-19 that our own don’t come near us. The Muslim volunteers helped us in this hour of crisis,” Walavalker, 28, told Arab News.

That same night, 50-year-old Mamdani and his group of volunteers helped another family perform the last rites of an 80-year-old Hindu woman who had also fallen victim to the disease.

The group was formed in late March after a local civic body said: “All dead bodies of COVID-19 patients should be cremated at the nearest crematorium irrespective of religion.”

After reports of a Muslim man being cremated in the Malwani area of the city angered the community, several members met with the authorities and managed to revise the order.

Since then, Mamdani said members of Mumbai’s Bada Qabrastan — the largest cemetery in the city — have extended their services to other communities as well.

“We get calls from different hospitals and people, and they seek our help in taking bodies to their final resting place. We decided to help the victims at this hour of crisis when there was chaos and panic in the city with the number of coronavirus cases increasing every day,” he told Arab News.

So far, the group has buried 450 Muslim bodies and cremated over 250 Hindu bodies.

He said their efforts would have been impossible without the Jama Masjid Trust, which oversees the Bada Qabrastan.

“On our request, the government allowed us to bury the dead bodies in seven burial grounds in the city,” he said.

There was one problem, however.

“No one was willing to come forward to collect dead bodies from the hospital and bring them to the cemetery,” Mamdani said.

Through word of mouth, Mamdani said seven Muslim volunteers quickly offered to help out.

The first challenge the group faced was a lack of ambulances, due to a shortage in supply as a result of the pandemic.

At first, they tried renting a private ambulance, “but the owner would not rent their vehicles for carrying COVID-19 victims,” Mamdani said.

With no other option left, the group decided to pool their resources and buy abandoned ambulances.

Mamdani said: “We managed to get 10 such vehicles from different parts of the city. With the help of mechanics and other resources, within eight days we managed to roll out the ambulances on the road.”

When the volunteers began gathering Muslim bodies from the hospital, they realized that several Hindu bodies had been left unclaimed, as their relatives “were too scared to perform the last rites.”

Mamdani said another factor behind unclaimed Hindu bodies was quarantine. The lockdown forced relatives to stay indoors and avoid the cremation grounds.

Experts have praised the efforts of the group.

“The Muslim volunteers have been really great support. They started working at a time when there was total chaos and panic in Mumbai,” Dr. Sulbha Sadaphule of Cooper Hospital, Mumbai, told Arab News.

Of the 820,000 COVID-19 cases in India, 100,000 are in Mumbai, where around 5,500 people have lost their lives from the nationwide fatality count of around 22,500.

“The morgue was overflowing with bodies because of a lack of ambulances and staff. When hospital staff and health workers were short in numbers they were helping us and the people,” added Dr. Sadaphule.

Mamdani said they would not have done it any other way.

“India is a country of religious harmony and we believe there should be no discrimination on the basis of religion. With this motto we decided to perform the last rites on behalf of the Hindu families with the support of the police and relatives,” he said.