The long-term fallout of the coronavirus in patients is an issue still under investigation, but “long COVID,” as it is called, continues to emerge in the form of different disorders and conditions.
A new impact of the disease in Turkey appears to be loss of vision, as several cases indicate. Professor Alper Şener, a member of the Health Ministry’s coronavirus scientific advisory board, said he had discovered damage to vision caused by the disease. Şener says studies show a 30% drop in the “transmission rate” in the optic nerves as a result of coronavirus infection.
Hamdiye Değer is one of the victims of vision loss problems. Hospitalized with coronavirus in the western city of Izmir two weeks ago after her health deteriorated, Değer also began losing sight in her right eye. Further examinations discovered a 50% loss of vision in his right eye and he was given medication to remove pressure from COVID-19 on the optic nerves.
Şener, who was among the doctors treating Değer, says they are seeing more and more new problems caused by the infection, and most of them were among the unvaccinated patients or those who had only received a single dose of vaccine.
“At the start of the pandemic, rashes in the eyes and watery eyes were observed in patients. Later, we discovered that these symptoms became more severe and damaging to the eyes. Our patient (Hamdiye Değer) received only one dose of vaccine and lost half of her sight in her right eye. We don’t know if she will recover. She is always neat,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Sunday. Şener said the case also proves the importance of vaccination, adding that vaccines also protect patients from post-COVID-19 symptoms or long COVID.
A study is still ongoing for patients with vision loss. “We looked at optic nerve transmission rates in recovered patients and found a 30% drop. Most of them complain of blurred vision. There are two possible causes. Either the coronavirus caused clotting in the veins supplying the optic nerves, or the virus blocked the optic nerves on its own. This is something patients may not notice at first,” Şener added.
No end in sight
Long COVID aside, Turkey is grappling with an increase in daily cases. Saturday’s latest figures show 27,474 new cases and 203 deaths while 30,584 people have recovered. Turkey is working to strengthen its vaccination program as it is seen as essential to ending the pandemic, or at least mitigating its effects.
Professor Tevfik Özlü, another member of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, warns, however, that there is no end in sight for the pandemic yet. He told the Ihlas News Agency (IHA) on Sunday that vaccination “is not going well” around the world and that there is no “certain evolution on the horizon” to end disease. “We can only return to normality if we accelerate vaccination, prevent serious cases and deaths and if we manage to downgrade COVID-19 to a seasonal disease like the flu,” he said.
Özlü warned that the pandemic poses a more serious risk to older people, although younger people can sometimes recover with mild symptoms. “Young people should be aware of causing infections among those close to them,” he said.
The professor said the pandemic was becoming more and more “persistent”. “Looking back at the last year, we see that we have made progress, with occasional flare-ups, but the virus is still alive. It is ubiquitous, all over the world and does not seem to be going away anytime soon. Vaccination is not going away. “has proven useful only in preventing severe cases. Deaths are still high and in terms of numbers in other countries, vaccination is not at the desired level,” he said.
Vaccination is one of the few options against infection, as well as respecting mask and social distancing rules. Turkey eased restrictions like curfews this summer, although mask and distancing rules still apply.
Turkey has administered more than 117 million doses since launching its vaccination program in January, with healthcare workers and the elderly being vaccinated first. More than 49 million people have so far received two doses of a vaccine, a prerequisite for achieving mass immunity in the country.
Although the vaccination rate is on the rise, the pandemic has turned into a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” according to experts. Authorities acknowledge that unvaccinated people make up the majority of severe cases in the country, where coronavirus deaths rarely drop below 200 these days. The delta variant, a more severe strain of the virus, is also contributing to the outbreak of the pandemic, especially among those abandoning mandatory mask and social distancing rules.