Killing of Manila judge by Covid-infected clerk prompts expert concern on mental side effects

Killing of Manila judge by Covid-infected clerk prompts expert concern on mental side effects

By Tracy Cabrera

Following the slaying of Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Maria Theresa Abadilla by a clerk of court who tested positive with Covid-19, health experts expressed concern over the possible mental side effects caused by the viral infection that often results in depression and severe anxiety.

Based on initial police reports, Abadilla was fatally shot inside her office by her clerk of court, lawyer Amador Rebato Jr., 42, who later killed himself after the shooting.

Rebato’s body was also found in Abadilla’s office slumped on a chair.

Police investigators said that according to court legal researcher Juanito Reyes, the victim had confronted Rebato about the latter’s work performance which of late, the judge said, had deteriorated significantly.

Reyes said that Rebato had been quite uneasy and shuddering while being quizzed by Abadilla, apparently showing his apprehension and the stress and anxiety he was experiencing after being diagnosed Covid-19 positive.

In view of the suspect’s condition, health experts noted that efforts should now be made to protect the public from the possibility of suffering psychiatric disorders during infection or even after recovering from Covid-19.

The experts said that data from recent studies found that about 55 percent of Covid patients monitored during and after being treated for the novel coronavirus or nCoV showed signs of having at least one psychiatric disorder.

The study results, based on clinical interviews and self-assessment questionnaires indicated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 28 percent of cases, depression in 31 percent and anxiety in 42 percent. Corollary to this, 40 percent of the patients had insomnia and 20 percent had obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptoms.

“PTSD, major depression and anxiety are all high-burden non-communicable conditions associated with years of life lived with disability. Considering the alarming impact of Covid-19 infection on mental health, the current insights on inflammation in psychiatry and the present observation of worse inflammation leading to worse depression, we recommend to assess psychopathology of Covid-19 patients and survivors and to deepen research on inflammatory biomarkers in order to diagnose and treat emergent psychiatric conditions,” the experts pointed out.

They said that psychiatric effects could be caused by “the immune response to the virus itself, or by psychological stress or such as social isolation, psychological impact of a novel, severe and potentially fatal illness, concerns about infecting others and stigma.”

Covid patients have shown increase anxiety and sleep disturbances, they added, while–perhaps surprisingly–the duration of diagnosis and hospitalization, inversely correlated with symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety and OC.

The experts further said that “considering the worse severity of Covid-19 in hospitalized patients, this observation suggests that less healthcare support could have increased the social isolation and loneliness typical of Covid-19 pandemics.”

They said their findings mirrored those from previous studies in outbreaks of coronaviruses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS, where the psychiatric morbidities ranged from 10 to 35 percent in the post-illness stage.

There have been warnings from health experts from the United Kingdom about brain disorders in Covid-19 patients. Problems including brain inflammation, stroke and psychosis have been linked to the virus. (ia)

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