The long-term fallout of coronavirus among patients is an issue still being investigated, but ‘long COVID’ as it is called continues emerging as different disorders and ailments.
A new impact of the disease in Turkey appears to be vision loss as several cases indicate. Professor Alper Şener, a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, says they came across findings of damage that the disease left on vision. Şener says studies show a 30% decline in “transmission rate” in optic nerves in the aftermath of a coronavirus infection.
Hamdiye Değer is one of the victims of vision loss problems. Hospitalized for coronavirus in the western city of Izmir two weeks ago after her health worsened, Değer also started losing sight in her right eye. Further examinations discovered a 50% loss in her right eye vision and she was administered medication to suppress COVID-19’s pressure on optic nerves.
Şener, who was among doctors treating Değer, says they increasingly see new problems caused by the infection, and most of them were among the unvaccinated patients or those who had only been administered one dose of a vaccine.
“In the early days of the pandemic, rash in the eyes and watering was seen among patients. Later, we discovered that these symptoms have become more severe and damaging to the eyes. Our patient (Hamdiye Değer) had only one dose of vaccine and lost half of the sight in her right eye. We are not certain whether she will recover. She is still being treated,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Sunday. Şener said the case also proved the importance of vaccination, adding that vaccines also protect the patients from post-COVID-19 symptoms or long COVID.
A study is still underway for patients suffering from vision loss. “We examined optic nerve transmission rates among recovered patients and found a 30% decline. Most of them complain of blurry vision. There are two possible causes. Either the coronavirus caused clotting in veins supplying the optic nerves or the virus singlehandedly blocked optic nerves. This is something patients cannot notice at first,” Şener added.
Long COVID aside, Turkey is embattled with a surge in daily cases. The latest figures from Saturday show 27,474 new cases and 203 fatalities while 30,584 people recovered. Turkey strives to boost its vaccination program as it is viewed as essential to ending the pandemic, or at least, to lessen its effect.
Professor Tevfik Özlü, another member of Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, warns, however, there is no end in sight yet for the pandemic. He told Ihlas News Agency (IHA) on Sunday that the vaccination was “not going well” in the world and there was no “certain development on the horizon” to end the disease. “We can only go back to normality if we speed up vaccination, prevent severe cases and fatalities and if we can manage to downgrade COVID-19 to a seasonal health condition like influenza,” he said.
Özlü warned that the pandemic poses a more severe risk to the elderly, although the younger people can occasionally recover with mild symptoms. “Younger people should be conscious about causing infections among their loved ones,” he said.
The professor said the pandemic was becoming more “lingering.” “Looking back to the past year, we see we achieved progress, with occasional surges, but the virus still lives on. It is omnipresent, everywhere in the world and does not look like it will disappear any time soon. Vaccination proved useful only for preventing severe cases. Fatalities are still high and in terms of numbers in other countries, vaccination is not at the desired level,” he said.
Vaccination is among the few options against infection, along with compliance with mask and social distancing rules. Turkey relaxed restrictions like curfews this summer, though mask and distancing rules still apply.
Turkey has administered more than 117 million doses since launching its vaccination program in January, with health care workers and the elderly being vaccinated first. More than 49 million people have so far received two doses of a vaccine, a prerequisite to achieving mass immunity in the country.
Although the vaccination rate is up, the pandemic evolved into a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” according to experts. Authorities acknowledge that unvaccinated people constitute the majority of severe cases in the country, where fatalities from the coronavirus rarely drop below 200 nowadays. The delta variant, a more severe strain of the virus, is also contributing to the surge in the pandemic, especially among those ditching mandatory mask and social distancing rules.
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