Long Covid

The Hidden Risks of Long Covid

The WHO released a factsheet in October 2022 revealing that as many as 1 in 5 people experience long covid symptoms for a minimum of 3 months after an acute Covid-19 infection. While in Europe, more than 17 million people have suffered from long Covid symptoms; for many, these symptoms can last for as long as 2 years. Until recently, Post-COVID-19 syndrome also known as long haul covid was thought to merely cause long-term illness, but a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that long haul Covid can be deadly. The data revealed that over 3,500 people in America have perished due to long Covid related illnesses within the first two and a half years of the pandemic.  Despite being a mere fraction of the 1.12 million lives taken by this virus in the US, these fatalities are an alarming reminder that any lingering symptoms should never be ignored. Patients have stated that their doctors often neglect to take them seriously, which makes this warning all the more worrying. South African employers need to understand that executives who were infected with Covid-19 may be struggling with invisible and debilitating symptoms that are affecting their quality of life and their ability to engage in their work or family life. Therefore, employers must be aware of the significant risks associated with long Covid in order to guard their organisation against crippling losses due to decreased productivity.
The Hidden Risks of Long Covid - Fatigue

What is Long Covid?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that long Covid or post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) can affect individuals who have had a SARS-CoV-2 infection at least three months prior. A diagnosis of long haul Covid will be given if the symptoms cannot eventually be attributed to some other existing medical condition and last for a minimum duration of two consecutive months.

Long Covid: New Subtypes and Symptoms

The diagnosis of long Covid can be challenging because the symptoms are often non-specific and can mimic other medical conditions. Additionally, many healthcare providers are not yet familiar with long haul Covid and may not be able to recognise it in their patients. For this reason, it is essential for people who have recovered from Covid-19 but are still experiencing symptoms to seek a proper evaluation. So what are some of the symptoms of long covid? New research from Weill Cornell Medicine discovered four major subphenotypes of Post-COVID-19 conditions that present with similar symptoms and negatively affect different areas in the body.  Symptoms can vary greatly and can differ in severity. Here are a few common long covid symptoms:  Symptoms can appear after a person initially recovers from COVID-19, or they may carry on to the present day. In addition, symptoms may come and go over time or worsen before improving.
Chest Pain

How Long Covid Can Affect Your Business

Long Covid can negatively affect your business's productivity, as it is often accompanied by symptoms that can be debilitating and long lasting. Long haul Covid symptoms can make it difficult for executives to perform efficiently due to a lack the energy and ability to focus on their work. Here are the 4 major risks for your business:

1. Increased Absenteeism due to Long Covid

Even though covid infection numbers have decreased dramatically, experts are still seeing incredibly high absenteeism rates that are well above average. The Guardian reported that in 2022 in the USA, the average number of sick days per month was 1.58 million, with a total of 19 million for the year. In January 2022, the number of absences skyrocketed to 3.6 million, which is triple the number for that month when compared with pre-pandemic statistics. 

Experts believe long Covid has a significant effect on absenteeism rates as 71% of patients in the US with long haul covid who applied for worker's compensation continued to have symptoms that required medical attention or were unable to work for over 6 months. With such a competitive job market and little social support in South Africa, many executives have no choice but to work while ill and take as much sick leave as legally possible to protect their income, leaving businesses to deal with the repercussions.

2. Decreased Productivity & Increased Presenteeism

Due to the sheer number of sick days associated with long Covid, it is easy to see how this will have an effect on your executives' productivity. Besides sick days, executives experiencing common long covid symptoms will have difficulty concentrating, suffer from fatigue, make mistakes, and will find it difficult to process new information. 

Due to the shortage of employment opportunities in South Africa, many executives will make the tough decision to work while ill due to fear of losing their job, leading to increased presenteeism among your executive team. Presenteeism is an issue for businesses as although your executive is physically at work, their productivity will be low, leading to a decrease in overall business performance.

3. Long Covid and Labour shortages

New studies from around the world demonstrate how long Covid contributes to labour shortages due to persistent symptoms and disability. A sobering article published by Reuters shows a whopping three-quarters of Britain's workforce is working less due to long covid related illness. Nearly all of Britain's long Covid-19 sufferers reported that their condition prevented them from working effectively; 78% had to either reduce or alter their workload, and 19% were no longer able to work.

Another alarming report from Ireland shows that almost 90% of Irish people living with long Covid have still not recovered their health to the level it was before the pandemic. The study examined 988 participants and found that two-thirds of patients experienced crippling fatigue, stomach upset, memory issues, and chest and muscle pain. Participants also noted that they had new ailments that were not present before they contracted covid; these include:

4. High Long-Term Healthcare Costs 

Long covid symptoms can cause severe and long-lasting damage to an individual's physical and mental health and will likely require expensive medical treatments or other forms of long-term care. Long haul covid patients are more likely to need ongoing treatment, such as physical therapy or counselling and may need to take extended leave from work. This can be expensive for businesses in the form of benefits, additional payouts, and increased medical aid contributions. 

Now that you understand the devastating effect it can have on your organisation, it is imperative to take swift action in order to support your executives so you can safeguard your bottom line. But what causes long haul covid, and does it ever go away?


What causes Long Covid?

The cause of lingering symptoms or the development of new ones after a patient has initially recovered from Covid-19 is believed to be due to possible damage inflicted on their body when they were originally infected. It isn’t only the lungs, heart and brain that could have been affected; other organs in the body may also sustain injury, leading to an assortment of different signs and symptoms.

The prolonged impacts of Covid-19 may be caused by a combination of the body's immune response to the virus and direct viral damage. Despite this potential explanation, there is currently insufficient research evidence that can explain why people experience these longer-lasting symptoms.

Does long Covid go away?

If you are wondering how long covid symptoms last, the answer isn’t a simple one unfortunately. Treatment is still in the early stages, and there is not yet a clear consensus on the best approach. Some healthcare providers recommend the use of medications to manage specific symptoms, such as pain or inflammation. Others advise a more holistic approach, including lifestyle changes, such as exercise and stress management techniques, to help improve overall health and wellness.

ExecCare: How We Can Help

ExecCare offers comprehensive executive wellness through our state-of-the-art health and wellness facilities. Our team of world-class medical professionals will thoroughly assess your executives and first rule out any underlying medical concerns with the help of bio-assessments such as blood tests. These tests provide our doctors with a clear understanding of the physical health of your executives and allow us to tailor treatment to suit their individual needs. If your executives are suffering from long covid, our medical personnel will provide appropriate medications and suggest practical lifestyle changes such as dietary changes and exercise regimes. Our holistic approach includes stress management through personal mastery techniques and wellness treatments to help your executives feel their best. ExecCare will provide you with confidential analytics about your executive team so you can assess all associated risks and manage these accordingly. Book an appointment at one of our modern facilities conveniently located across South Africa in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

Final Thoughts

Long covid can have serious repercussions for your executives and business, so it is essential to ensure that you take swift action to protect them both. ExecCare's comprehensive executive wellness offering provides the perfect environment for any executive suffering from long covid, ensuring they receive professional medical care while also being able to manage their lifestyle changes in a safe and supportive environment.  Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you protect your executives and business from the impact of long covid in South Africa.
Long Covid - Executives
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