Long term health concerns with COVID-19 infection.

Death from COVID is not the only concern for those who get the infection.  Long-lasting effects from the virus can affect the body. Damage to the lungs for those who recover from severe COVID lung infection may lead to an increased predisposition to future lung infections.  Confusion and fatigue are symptoms people may continue to experience after recovering from the acute effects of the virus.  While many who contract COVID do improve, the long term effects of this virus are still unknown.  As a clinician and as a patient, I continue to advocate for you and recommend preventing COVID exposure.

Lungs

A  virus caused me symptoms for months and may have contributed to other conditions that still bother me.   Within two years of starting my career as a PA, a colleague diagnosed me with infectious mononucleosis.  I had elevated liver enzymes, fevers, sore throat, night sweats, dehydration, and body aches.  When I saw my PA, she and her supervising doctor tested me for streptococcal throat infection, hepatitis A, B, C, tuberculosis, and HIV.  I tested negative for those infections.  A blood smear showed atypical lymphocytes.  An EBV titer blood test suggested it was the cause of my illness.  Epstein Barr is a virus that causes mild symptoms in most people.  However, some people develop more severe symptoms.  In my illness, the acute symptoms lasted three weeks.  I went on to battle postexertional exhaustion; I describe it as feeling like a rag doll.  Instead of feeling energized after a simple 15-minute walk in the park, I would experience overwhelming tiredness that lasted for days.  I knew I had to regain my strength, and it was frustrating when exercise made me feel worse.  I had no choice but to cope with chronic fatigue, which lasted more than six months.  I remember, at the time, my employer allowed me to return to work part-time for several months.  I was grateful I worked in a clinic and for a health care organization.  Had I worked for a less sympathetic employer, I could have lost my job.  It was physically not possible for me to return to full-time employment.  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a real condition.  My symptoms were debilitating.  To this day, some health care providers fail to recognize chronic fatigue syndrome and often tell patients that their symptoms are all in their heads.  The unbelieving clinicians cite a lack of blood tests and other organic tests as reasons to support their disbelief.  Yet, those same clinicians believe in the diagnosis of migraines even though there is a lack of blood tests and other tests to confirm migraines.  Both conditions have criteria for meeting the diagnosis and are found in populations around the globe.  Clinicians have had to be encouraged by their colleagues to believe in CFS.  Estimates suggest there are 2.5 million Americans who suffer from CFS.  People who have persistent chronic fatigue seek treatment from more than one health care provider before being diagnosed.  A  2008 survey found up to 44% of people with the diagnosis reported having to visit five or more clinicians before the determination made.  Patients also add they had to seek a different health care provider to find someone who believes them and, thus, treats their symptoms. Even if a person sees a clinician who recognizes CFS, the treatment recommendations may not be up to date.  To make matters more troubling, people with CFS battle symptoms for years before they get treatmentAnother problem with making this diagnosis is the fact that several comorbid conditions share traits with the disease.    Conditions such as fibromyalgia, IBS, and hypothyroidism have overlapping symptoms, making it difficult for even experienced clinicians to make a diagnosis.  Research for CFS continues as this condition is expensive due to costs of care and loss of productivity.

It is essential to remember some viral infections are associated with long term risks.   After an EBV diagnosis, a person has an increased risk of developing lymphoma.  Varicella virus infections can return later in life, causing shingles that may present with a variety of symptoms and possibly severe consequences.

The number of new COVID infections reached all-time highs last week in the states of Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, and South Carolina.  As the country reopens, the virus spreads, and new infections abound.  Sign up for member-only benefits, including:

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Updated on 6/6/2020 at 2:07 pm EST

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Paul Connor

About Paul Connor

Nationally Certified Physician Assistant.
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