Cases of some survivors dealing with longer-term health issues resulting from having contracted COVID-19 are being seen around the world. These people are referred to as "long-haulers."
"Published studies and surveys conducted by patient groups indicate that 50% to 80% of patients continue to have bothersome symptoms three months after the onset of COVID-19 – even after tests no longer detect the virus in their body," according to Harvard Medical School.
But according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Felix Cabrera of the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services, there are no confirmed cases on Guam. There have been 7,687 positive cases of COVID-19 on island since the start of the pandemic.
Cabrera said he has been made aware of only a couple of speculative cases involving long-haulers on Guam.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated, "As the pandemic unfolds, we are learning that many organs besides the lungs are affected by COVID-19."
While most people recover from the initial infection and return to normal health, the CDC said, some patients show symptoms that last for weeks or even months after recovery from acute illness.
The CDC said the long-term significance of these effects is not yet known, but it "will continue the active investigation and provide updates as new data emerges."
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero does not plan to address this aspect of COVID-19 as, Cabrera said, "they are not all equal." Therefore medical care is on an individual basis.
"We don't hold ourselves to a single plan for a small minority of patients with a large variety of needs," Cabrera said.
There is also no plan to address the chronic care of long-haulers who may not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare and can't afford health insurance. Cabrera said these patients would need to be eligible for health insurance based on employment, age, income or disability, like anyone else.
The governor announced her plans for universal health care at her inaugural address earlier this year.
Krystal Paco-San Agustin, the governor's communications director, said, "This only highlights the need to reassess Guam's health care system. As Leon Guerrero reinforced in her State of the Island address, universal health care remains a top priority, as well as the building of a new medical complex."
Paco-San Agustin said, currently, "we don't have enough data on long-haulers for us to develop policy and address their needs."
According to the CDC, long-term symptoms of long-haulers include:
• Shortness of breath.
• Joint pain.
• Chest pain.
• Difficulty with thinking and concentrating (sometimes referred to as "brain fog").
• Muscle pain.
• Intermittent fever.
• Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations).
More severe long-term complications appear to be less common but have been reported. The CDC noted these complications may affect different organ systems in the body. These include:
• Cardiovascular: Inflammation of the heart muscle.
• Respiratory: Lung function abnormalities.
• Renal: Acute kidney injury.
• Dermatologic: Rash, hair loss.
• Neurological: Smell and taste problems, sleep issues, difficulty with concentration, memory problems.
• Psychiatric: Depression, anxiety, changes in mood.