By Sarah Toy, Sumathi Reddy, and Daniela Hernandez
Nov. 1, 2020 12:49 pm ET
“Nearly a year into the global coronavirus pandemic, scientists, doctors and patients are beginning to unlock a puzzling phenomenon: For many patients, including young ones who never required hospitalization, Covid-19 has a devastating second act.
“Many are dealing with symptoms weeks or months after they were expected to recover, often with puzzling new complications that can affect the entire body—severe fatigue, cognitive issues and memory lapses, digestive problems, erratic heart rates, headaches, dizziness, fluctuating blood pressure, even hair loss.
“What is surprising to doctors is that many such cases involve people whose original cases weren’t the most serious undermining the assumption that patients with mild Covid-19 recover within two weeks. Doctors call the condition “post-acute Covid” or “chronic Covid,” and sufferers often refer to themselves as “long haulers” or “long-Covid” patients.
“Usually, the patients with bad disease are most likely to have persistent symptoms, but Covid doesn’t work like that,” said Trisha Greenhalgh, professor of primary care at the University of Oxford and the lead author of an August BMJ study (BELOW on SoundCloud) that was among the first to define chronic Covid patients as those with symptoms lasting more than 12 weeks and spanning multiple organ systems.
“For many such patients, she said, “the disease itself is not that bad,” but symptoms like memory lapses and rapid heart rate sometimes persist for months.
“In October, the National Institutes of Health added a description of such cases to its Covid-19 treatment guidelines, saying doctors were reporting Covid-19-related long-term symptoms and disabilities in people with milder illness.
“You don’t realize how lucky you are with your health until you don’t have it,” said Elizabeth Moore, a 43-year-old lawyer and mother of three in Valparaiso, Ind. Pre-Covid-19 she was an avid skier and did boot-camp workouts several times a week. Since falling ill in March, she has been struggling with symptoms including memory problems and gastrointestinal issues. She has lost nearly 30 pounds.
“Estimates about the percentage of Covid-19 patients who experience long-haul symptoms range widely. A recent survey of more than 4,000 Covid-19 patients found that about 10% of those age 18 to 49 still struggled with symptoms four weeks after becoming sick, that 4.5% of all ages had symptoms for more than eight weeks, and 2.3% had them for more than 12 weeks. The study, which hasn’t yet been peer reviewed, was performed using an app created by the health-science company Zoe in cooperation with King’s College London and Massachusetts General Hospital. Another preliminary study looking mostly at nonhospitalized Covid patients found that about 25% still had at least one symptom after 90 days.
A European study found about one-third of 1,837 non-hospitalized patients reported being dependent on a caregiver about three months after symptoms started…”
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