Saturday, November 27

Prof John Potter: ‘Not Just a Respiratory Virus’ – Long Covid Warnings for the Unvaccinated

With the daily increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, there is growing concern on the part of healthcare workers about the strain it could put on the ICU’s capacity. But it’s not just immediate hospitalizations that are of concern, Massey University professor John Potter said.

Massey University Professor John Potter.

Massey University Professor John Potter.
Photo: Supplied

Potter, a professor at the Massey Research Center for Hauora and Health who was Senior Scientific Advisor to the New Zealand Ministry of Health between 2016 and 2019, said that if Covid-19 becomes endemic in New Zealand, it could cause massive and wider problems. for the health system.

According to a new study from Oxford University, 37 percent of those infected were diagnosed with at least one prolonged Covid symptom.

“Two hundred and seventy thousand Covid survivors, and they followed them, and between a third and a half had symptoms three to six months later,” Potter said speaking to Saturday Morning today.

“And those are a wide variety of symptoms that indicate the fact that this particular virus infects many different parts of us. It is not just a respiratory virus.”


“It is a virus that penetrates many organs and has subsequent consequences that are really unpleasant for many people.”

Long-term Covid symptoms can include breathing problems, abdominal symptoms, fatigue, pain, anxiety, and depression.

Victims may have myalgia, pain in the muscles, which can present similar to chronic fatigue syndrome.

“Abnormal breathing persists in a decent percentage of people, nearly 20 percent of people due to lung damage,” Potter said.

“Some people have headaches and cognitive symptoms that tell us they damage the brain.”

Doctors treat a Covid-19 patient in the isolation area of ​​a California hospital

Doctors treat a Covid-19 patient in the isolation area of ​​a California hospital
Photo: GETTY via AFP

More than 10 percent end up with pain in various parts of the body, and nearly a quarter of the people in the long Covid study found anxiety and depression.

“People also have something like what people have called chemo brain, where you have symptoms where your brain is fuzzy, it doesn’t work at the level that you’re used to.”

Symptoms are very different from common flu, Potter said.

“The flu from time to time has a post-viral illness. The flu that people usually get is vile, it is lousy, it kills people … but in general people recover completely after the flu.”

Long Covid symptoms were first described more than a year ago by ordinary people gathering in groups on social media and elsewhere.

“It was first picked up over a year ago by a really good article in The Washington Post,” he said.

The new UK study is a “really important contribution to our understanding,” Potter said.

“But there is still a lot to understand. We don’t know how long this persists.”

“It is clearly different from anything like the flu.”

Similarities to Covid-19 can be found in respiratory illnesses from the 2002-2004 SARS outbreak in China and MERS in 2012 in the Middle East.

“These are both coronavirus and our Covid … this is the third that we know that we have encountered with this type of evil.

“But coronaviruses are also part of our common cold sources. There are many different viruses that cause colds.”

The mutation of the Delta variant of Covid-19 has spawned new waves and spread across the world, including New Zealand. Potter said no one knows for sure if Covid-19 will continue to mutate, but there are concerns.

“Here’s a very good reason why it won’t get any more benign. This particular version of this particular coronavirus, the Delta variant, has an R1 (reproduction rate) of about 6. That means the numbers are increasing very quickly. It spreads itself very, very quickly, and that’s our problem.

“For any virus variant to replace this one, it has to be even more infectious than this one.”

“If it mutates away from being infectious, it will not compete with it, so it will be the dominant one continuously.”

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Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Potter has previously written that New Zealand must not allow Covid-19 to become endemic.

“We must not give up,” he said.

“If you want a comparison, malaria is endemic in tropical parts of the world. Every year there are more than 200 million cases of malaria and more than 400,000 deaths and two-thirds of them are in children under the age of 5. Therefore, There are 750 deaths a day of children under the age of 5 from malaria. And malaria is endemic. “

“Germany and the UK are currently more than 80 percent empty and yet the UK has around 30,000 cases a day and 130 deaths. Germany has done better, a larger population, has 8000 cases a day. and about 60 deaths.

“That would translate in New Zealand terms, to 80 percent vaccination, 500 to 2,500 per day and 5 to 10 deaths per day.”

“This is not a formal model,” Potter noted. “This is just saying that if we compare ourselves to Germany and the UK, those are the kind of numbers that we are going to face.”

In the long term, Potter said that if we don’t penetrate all communities equally with vaccines, we will face ongoing problems.

“We are going to end a new kind of inequity that I have started to think of as hitting and hitting-no. We are going to have problems because this will spread rapidly in areas where there is no vaccination.”

A new experimental drug, molnupiravir, is being developed to treat the symptoms of Covid-19.

“It’s certainly not a vaccine replacement and it’s not a cure,” Potter said. “All you do is stomp on the virus so hard that you don’t get that big of a viral load.”

However, it is not all doom and gloom, Potter said.

“I don’t think we will go forever. The good news is again … the general response from the population is massive. Over 80 percent of those eligible at this time have made their first hit. A large proportion of those will take their second. jab.

“We have four-fifths of the population who are already voting with their feet. Many of them are voting for the common good, for the good of the family, for the good of the whānau.

“All of that is just fabulous, and it speaks to us. The prime minister was absolutely right about the 5 million team. Yes, we have some people who don’t want to play, but generally speaking, people are right on the side and really doing everything. possible for this to work properly. “

“We are the country that other people look to to give them hope,” Potter said, despite recent setbacks.

“I think a wheel is wobbling. I’m still optimistic because the general feeling is that we can still get around this.”

“If we have to get the levels back up, that’s fine. I appreciate that that means pain and misery for some people. But it’s mostly mental pain and misery, it won’t be the physical illness of Covid-19.

“That is why everyone should go out and get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

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