While most people who encounter the coronavirus are able to recover in a few weeks after dealing with a set of mild symptoms, cases have been observed in which patients suffer from side effects of the illness long after the initial recovery.
According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35% of symptomatic adults who previously tested positive for the coronavirus had not returned to their normal state of health when interviewed 2-3 weeks after their initial testing.
This report also says that among people between the ages of 18-34 with no prior “chronic medical conditions,” 1 in 5 were not back to their usual health 2-3 weeks after testing positive.
This demographic of COVID patients who seem to never get better has been dubbed the “long haulers” — those who have “recovered” from the coronavirus but still deal with long-term symptoms that accompanied the virus.
The Mayo Clinic describes some of the symptoms that may linger past initial recovery as fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, headache, joint pain, brain fog and heart injuries.
Khurram Nasir, preventative neurologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, said to consider the novel virus a “cluster bomb” exploding in one’s body, creating a “ripple effect” throughout the organs.
Among these lingering maladies, those pertaining to the brain, heart, and lungs have proven to be more concerning. COVID-19 has shown to damage the muscles and tissues of these vital organs and increase the risks for complications such as heart failure, seizures, Parkinson’s, and alveoli damage.
Scientists are still working actively to determine the symptoms of these illnesses, the suspected duration of their effects, how to properly treat and prevent them, and the demographic most at risk.
Gregory Poland, American vaccinologist and physician, described the coronavirus as “mysterious” when compared to its other viral respiratory counterparts.
“We’re seeing a number of reports of people who report long-term fatigue, headaches, vertigo — interestingly enough,” said Poland. “I think what we’re going to find out is that a large portion — not all — but a large portion of that is likely to relate to the significant cellular level damage that this virus can cause.”
Poland advises younger people to not minimize the seriousness of the coronavirus and the effects that it can have on one’s long-term health.
“This can be a really wicked virus,” Poland said. “In some people we’re going to see more and more of the longer term consequences come out and we’re going to need to study those as vigorously as we did the acute symptoms.”