An ICU boss in the hardest-hit part of Italy says many patients who recover from COVID-19 still have 'chronic damage'

July 14th 2020, 6:24:59 pm

The head of the ICU at a hospital in Bergamo, Italy, said many patients there who were treated for COVID-19 now have serious long-term health issues.

  • Bergamo was the worst-hit area in Italy's worst-hit region, Lombardy. Some 3,000 people died in Bergamo, with the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in the thick of it.
  • Dr. Roberto Cosentini, the head of the ICU, told Sky News this week that "a significant proportion of the population" have "chronic damage from the virus" after recovery.
  • He did not specify how many were affected. Several studies have shown problems in patients who had COVID-19 but have yet to reach firm conclusions.
  • Cosentini said it's clear the virus affects a number of organs, including the kidneys and the brain, not just the lungs.
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The head of intensive care at a hospital in Northern Italy that was in the center of the country's outbreak said COVID-19 patients there have been left with serious health issues that may never go away.

Dr. Roberto Cosentini, the head of the emergency department at Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, Lombardy, told Sky News : "We see a significant proportion of the population with chronic damage from the virus."

Cosentini did not specify how large the proportion was. Scientific studies have shown an array of serious conditions in coronavirus patients but have yet to determine how widespread they are.

Scenes from Papa Giovanni XXIII in mid-March were seen around the world after a shocking video from its overwhelmed ICU was broadcast by Sky News .


Bergamo was the first badly hit area in Europe, and the images of the outbreak were a shocking insight into how bad the pandemic could get.

At one point, the Italian military arrived to ferry bodies to nearby provinces because morgues in Bergamo were overflowing . Victims were temporarily stored in churches or sealed off in the bedrooms in which they died .

Cosentini, who appeared in the video in March, told Sky News this week: "At first, initially, we thought it was a bad flu, then we thought it was a bad flu with a very bad pneumonia.

He added: "But subsequently we discovered that it is a systemic illness with vessel damage in the whole body with renal involvement, cerebral involvement. So we are seeing other acute manifestations of renal failure that require dialysis, or stroke, and then acute myocardial infarction, so a lot of complications or other manifestations of the virus."

The long-term health effects of the coronavirus are not known for certain, but several trends are emerging.

Respiratory problems are regularly observed, which can include acute respiratory distress syndrome, asthma, and what some doctors call "post-COVID lung disease."

A July 8 study from University College London observed delirium, rare brain inflammation, and strokes in recovered COVID-19 patients.

Issues with the gut, heart, and kidneys have also been reported after recovery, Independent reported, citing doctors and researchers. Experts are also concerned about effects on the mental health of severely ill patients.

The ICU at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital said on July 8 that it finally had zero COVID-19 patients, more than four months after it received its first patient on February 23.

Bergamo is the worst-hit province in Lombardy, which is Italy's worst-hit region.

As of Monday, 16,748 people had died in Lombardy, making up 50% of Italy's total 34,954 deaths.

Authorities in Bergamo said on June 8 a study showed that more than 50% of people tested in the province have COVID-19 antibodies, according to Reuters .

Prosecutors in the province are investigating allegations of mistreatment, neglect, and wrongdoing by healthcare professionals.

According to The Associated Press , families of dead patients have submitted 150 complaints alleging mistreatment of their relatives.

And Italian health authorities are warning of a second wave.

"Although the lockdown measures made it possible to effectively control SARS-CoV-2 infection, widespread transmission of the virus persists when favorable conditions occur, causing outbreaks, including some of a significant size," the country's Ministry of Health said on Monday, according to the ANSA news agency .

"New cases of infection were diagnosed in almost all of the regions and autonomous provinces during the week of monitoring from June 29 to July 5, with an increase in cases with respect to the previous week in some areas," it added.

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Bill Bostock


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