New COVID variant found amid warnings over health risk post hospitalisation

As the UK announced it had reported the discovery of a more contagious COVID mutation to the WHO research has warned that patients face a higher risk of serious issues in the days after leaving hospital.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the new variant as he put London into the highest level of lockdown from Midnight tonight.

He said over 1,000 cases of a new variant of the coronavirus had been identified, mainly in southeast England where the variant may be associated with a rapid rise in infection levels.

“Over the last week, we’ve seen very sharp, exponential rises in the virus across London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire,” Mr Hancock told the House of Commons in a statement.

It comes as researchers announced there were growing concerns over the health of those who had suffered hospitalisation due to COVID and then released.

The study by a team from the University of Michigan and Veterans’ Association (VA) Ann Arbor Healthcare System revealed the first months after their COVID-19 hospital stay, patients face a high risk of ongoing health problems, trips back to the hospital, and death, a growing number of studies has shown.

But the first week and a half may be especially dangerous, with COVID-19 patients had a 40% to 60% higher risk of ending up back in the hospital or dying in the first 10 days, compared with similar patients treated at the same hospitals during the same months for heart failure or pneumonia.

By the end of 60 days, the COVID-19 patients’ overall risk of readmission or death was lower than that for the other two serious conditions.

Even so, in the first two months, 9% of the COVID-19 patients who survived hospitalisation had died, and almost 20% had suffered a setback that sent them back to the hospital. The figure does not include on the 18.5% who had died during their hospitalisation.

The researchers compared post-hospital outcomes for nearly 2,200 veterans who survived their hospitalisation at 132 VA hospitals for COVID-19 this spring and early summer, with outcomes for nearly 1,800 similar patients who survived a stay for pneumonia that wasn’t related to COVID-19, and 3,500 who survived a heart failure-related stay, during the same time.

“With hundreds of thousands of Americans now hospitalised for severe cases of COVID-19, and hospitals working to free up beds for an ongoing surge,” the study suggests a need for special vigilance in the first days after discharge,” said John P. Donnelly, the study’s first author and an epidemiologist in the Department of Learning Health Sciences at Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical centre.

“By comparing COVID-19 patients’ long-term outcomes with those of other seriously ill patients, we see a pattern of even greater-than-usual risk right in the first one to two weeks, which can be a risky period for anyone,” added Mr Donnelly, who is a scholar in a special training program for critical illness data researchers at the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

“Now, the question is what to do about it,” he explained. “How can we design better discharge plans for these patients? How can we tailor our communication and post-hospital care to their needs? And how can we help their caregivers prepare and cope?”

Mr Donnelly worked on the study with Michigan Medicine and VAAHS critical care physicians Hallie Prescott, and Theodore Iwashyna.

“Unfortunately,” said Mr Iwashyna, “this is yet more evidence that COVID-19 is not ‘one and done.’ For many patients, COVID-19 seems to set off cascades of problems that are every bit as serious as those we see in other diseases. But too little of our healthcare response — and too little research — is designed to help these patients as they continue for days, weeks, even months to recover from COVID-19.”

He added: “It is likely that there are very similar patterns happening the private sector, but the VA had the data to be able to look early.”