There are many misunderstandings around the COVID-19 virus and, as a local physician, it might be helpful to convey some of the more recent medical discoveries to help remind all of us of the importance of preventing the spread of this virus.
Although COVID-19 is related to a few other serious Corona-virus infections (SARS and MERS) it is new, and we are constantly learning new things about it. The most worrisome new discoveries have to do with the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection. The mainstream media is just beginning to talk about these effects.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association from Italy found that of 179 patients who had been hospitalized with COVID-19, 87.4 percent reported persistence of at least 1 symptom, particularly fatigue and dyspnea (shortness of breath).
The CDC surveyed 292 Americans 6 months out from a positive COVID-19 test. These were all people who did not require hospitalization for their illness. Thirty-five percent of those people reported chronic fatigue and 1 in 5 of those aged 18-34 who had no other chronic medical issues reported that they had not fully recovered.
In terms of objective evidence of the longer term damage that can result from COVID-19, a study published in the Lancet 7/14/2020 looking at 55 people who had recovered from COVID-19, lung function abnormalities were detectable in 25 percent of them 3 months out from their hospitalization and 31 percent were still experiencing gastrointestinal issues. Another study looking at cardiac complications and published 5/12/2020 showed that 58 percent of patient complaining of persistent heart related symptoms had an abnormal cardiac MRIs 2 months out from their COVID admissions.
In addition, neurologic complications including difficulty concentrating, chronic fatigue, depression, headaches and vertigo are prominently reported among people recovering from COVID-19. These people are creating communities around the world advocating for research on “Long-COVID”.
In short, this is not “just the flu” and while many cases are minimally symptomatic, we should continue to take precautions to avoid contracting and spreading this disease, especially until we have even better treatments and at least additional knowledge of whether or not these effects will resolve with time or are permanent.