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WHO Establishes Rehabilitation Guidelines for Post-COVID-19 Condition

October 6, 2021 by Alexa Hornbeck
Coronavirus patient Joan Bronson walks across her hospital room with the help of a physical therapist at Ochsner Medical Center in the New Orleans suburb of Jefferson, La., on Tuesday, Aug.11, 2021. (AP Photo/Stacey Plaisance)

This week the World Health Organization held the third webinar in a series focused on post-COVID-19 burden, research, and rehabilitation efforts, as currently over a third of patients who get COVID-19 have symptoms lasting for months. 

In September 2020, the WHO established an International Classification of Disease, also known as an ICD code, for post-COVID-19 conditions.

By Feb. 9, 2021, a first webinar was held to expand the understanding of post-COVID-19. Shortly after, the WHO launched a global clinic platform for providers around the globe to enter anonymized individual-level data from hospitalized patients with post COVID-19 condition to generate global and regional reports that give a window into large scale data that provides characteristics of the condition.

According to the WHO, the working definition for post-COVID is, “a condition that occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, usually three months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms that last for at least two months that cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.” 

Symptoms of COVID-19, which may fluctuate or relapse over time, include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction, but also others that may have an impact on everyday function. 

In June, a second webinar was held to discuss the mechanisms of the intervention, and this third webinar to discuss rehabilitation efforts.

The WHO also identified seven potential causes of post-COVID-19 symptoms.

During the third webinar, held Tuesday with over 3,000 attending, interventions for rehabilitation and models of rehabilitation that are effective were introduced.

Despite a limited evidence base, recent data shows that about 7-77% of those who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 may experience spectrum impairments, and 1/3 experience limitations in functioning at five-six months after hospital discharge.

Further, a recent study found that approximately one third of those who suffer from post-COVID-19 symptoms and were hospitalized did not report any further health care contact after their acute illness.

That is why the WHO is focusing on raising awareness on benefits of rehabilitation through online training courses for providers that includes seven modules and a leaflet for patients at home with post-COVID-19. 

The organization is also creating interim guidelines for providers and program planners involved in rehabilitation of post-COVID-19 to manage symptoms.

“Hopefully we will be able to publish this resource by the end of this year,” said Wouter De Groote, a member of the Rehabilitation Program at WHO.

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