Covid affects GI system, says specialist from New York

Patients recovering from Coronavirus infection have been reporting issues with their digestive system, including diarrhoea, cramps, nausea, and acid reflux.
In a tête-à-tête with Deccan Chronicle, Dr. Jasbir Makker, gastroenterology specialist from Bronx Care Hospital New York, informs people about the Dos & Don’ts for patients recovering from Covid-19.

Q. How prevalent are GI symptoms among Covid patients?

A. About 8–15 percent of Coronavirus patients can have GI symptoms. Diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and taste, and abdominal pain are the key symptoms. But some may even have acid reflux and GI bleeding.

Q. How long will the virus last in the GI System?

A. Faecal samples remain positive for average 12.5 days after negative testing. However, a study in China revealed viral shedding in stool of a child for more than 70 days after the onset of illness.

Q. How does GI system get affected?

A. The virus enters the host GI tract cells via interaction between spike protein and angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptor. Infectivity of this virus isolated from stool samples has not been conclusively established though.

Q. Would recovery from Covid-19 infection mean that GI is cured?

A. The virus is known to persist in the GI tract despite clearance of the virus from upper airways and lungs. In some cases, the virus persists in gastrointestinal tract for about two to three months after recovery.

Q. Can there be long-term effects of Coronavirus on GI system?

A. Patients experience new, returning, or ongoing GI symptoms four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus. So far, acid reflux, abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing and diarrhoea have been reported as long-term effects.

Q. Is there any difference in treatment of GI symptoms owing to Covid and other causes?

A. No difference.

Q. How to take care of Coronavirus patients with GI?

A. First, recognise GI symptoms in a patient as a sign of Covid. Send these patients for early testing. During illness, drink adequate fluids and take sufficient rest. After recovery, take frequent small energy-dense meals for initial four weeks to regain lost weight and strength.

Q. How should Covid GI be dealt with?

A. Infected patients should use a separate toilet. Family members must strictly avoid this toilet. Sanitize the toilet seat after each use.


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