Blog
Dec 15
Blog: COVID-19 Long-haulers: The Illness That Just Won’t Quit

There are mysteries about COVID-19 that continue to stump medical experts. One unsolved puzzle is discovering why the majority of those infected recover without long-term health effects, while others experience prolonged illness long after the virus has left their system. Many of the individuals reported as recovered on the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard are actually still suffering from lingering symptoms, even months later.

Reports are widely varied, and mostly anecdotal, as to how many people are not fully recovering. A report out of Great Britain says 10%, the Centers for Disease Control says 35%, and a recent self-reported survey indicated about 65% of coronavirus patients are reporting sickness three weeks or more past recovery. These patients include those who were not hospitalized, experienced only mild symptoms, or were originally healthy with no underlying health conditions, including young people. 

Nicknamed “long-haulers,” these patients have been recognized with a condition of “long COVID.” They have trouble regaining their strength, even for simple activities like walking to the mailbox. They no longer have the virus and are not contagious, but still ache all over or are unusually forgetful. While there is not yet a scientific study to confirm who or how many are affected, there’s no question about the severity of the impact. According to the CDC, these long-haulers are experiencing: 

  • Trouble concentrating, cloudy thinking (brain fog)
  • Continuing fatigue 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Cough
  • Joint or chest pain 
  • Muscle pain
  • Depression
  • Intermittent fever 
  • Heart palpitations 

Even serious long-term complications of other organs have been reported, affecting the heart, lungs, and kidneys, among others. Preexisting conditions, such as diabetes and lung disease, are at risk of exacerbation, but even healthy young people and people who only had mild COVID-19 are experiencing everything from lingering symptoms to organ damage as a result of being infected with the coronavirus. 

The only known prevention is to avoid getting COVID-19 in the first place. This is not at all like a bad cold or the flu. COVID-19, officially known as SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), is a new virus that begins shedding from infected persons a few days before they show symptoms, if they have symptoms at all. It is on pace to become the third leading cause of death in this country, behind heart disease and cancer. It is very easy to catch, and if caught, the recovery may be long and difficult. 

Proper masking, social distancing, hand-washing, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and properly managing any chronic conditions are the best ways to keep yourself and the people in your life safe. Learn more about how to protect yourself and others here. Read about Saratoga Hospital’s response to COVID-19 here


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