FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/NIAID-RML via AP

FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/NIAID-RML via AP

Long COVID is less of a problem with Omicron variant, says Red Deer doctor

‘There’s nothing that is the magic cure’

Long COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be impacting those who are infected with the current Omicron variant as much as it does victims of the Delta variant, says a Red Deer doctor.

But Dr. Peter Bouch, with Red Deer Primary Care Network, said people don’t really know if it will happen to them until they get sick and their symptoms linger.

“Who gets it? Generally, in my experience, it’s people who’ve had lung issues previously, but it can realistically be anybody,” Bouch said.

He said he’s had a few Omicron patients with shortness of breath, but nothing as bad as those with Delta. People with Delta got much sicker.

Long COVID patients can also experience reduced lung capacity, coughing, and feel tired, but tests usually come back negative, he said.

“The X-rays are clear. All blood tests are generally normal, so it’s a bit of a mystery. People do get better. It just takes time.”

He said people have to make sure not to over-exert themselves, exercise within reason, get plenty of rest, and eat a balanced diet.

“Lifestyle is important, but it’s a difficult thing and people get very frustrated.”

He said some patients have to go to work because they can’t go on short-term disability and have no other option than to push through.

COVID treatments used in hospital don’t really seem to help with long COVID. Inhalers only help some people. Treatments offered at long COVID clinics in Edmonton and Calgary aren’t much different than what is done locally, Bouch said.

“We’ve tried everything almost. There’s nothing that is the magic cure.”


Red Deer down to 277 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta Health Services (AHS) said there is increasing evidence that many patients suffer long-lasting symptoms in various forms following a COVID-19 infection, but at this point, there is no fixed pattern for how these symptoms present, so it is impossible to give an exact estimate of the number of patients affected.

Estimates in international literature suggest that 10 to 25 per cent of all COVID-19 patients may have long-lasting symptoms post-infection. AHS internally uses 20 per cent as a general reference point. But the estimates vary with the population considered, and there is evidence that the incidence of long-lasting symptoms may be changing with high vaccination coverage, and also with changes in the virus.

AHS said it is working to plan clinical supports for the small subset of long COVID patients with severe post-COVID symptoms, and supporting clinicians in various approaches to serve specific groups of patients. The majority of long COVID patients will be able to self-manage their own symptoms using appropriate resources and tools AHS has developed, along with support from their primary care provider.


‘Complete change in our quality of life’: Long COVID a burden for many Canadians

Bouch said the biggest lessons COVID has taught people is to stay home when they’re sick, and to wash their hands more often than they think they should, as well as use alcohol hand sanitizers.

“Those sanitizer dispensers in stores, and all over the place, still need to be there. People need to get used to just using them more often then they did in the past. This is good not only for COVID, but any regular viruses,” Bouch said.

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