The Long-Term Effect Most COVID-19 Survivors Have In Common

Thanks to improvements in treatment, your chances of survival, if you become infected with COVID-19, are now excellent — 99.4 percent, to be exact, according to the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) Director Dr. Christopher Murray (via Reuters). Don't breathe that sigh of relief too deeply yet, though.

Researchers are finding that many 'recovered' COVID-19 patients don't return to their normal level of health for weeks — and in some cases even months — after being diagnosed with the virus. Evidence is growing that, in many patients, lingering negative effects of the infection could be long-term. Anthony Fauci, M.D., told Medscape, "Even after you clear the virus, there are postviral symptoms. They just don't get back to normal energy or normal feeling of good health."

According to Mayo Clinic, long-term effects of COVID-19 infection can include difficulty concentrating or 'brain fog,' prolonged loss of the sense of smell or taste, cough, or shortness of breath, as well as organ damage, blood clots or blood vessel problems, or a weakened immune system.

COVID-19 can produce long-term fatigue

But the most commonly reported post-COVID symptom? Fatigue. One study of 965 'recovered' COVID-19 individuals in South Korea found that 26 percent of them were experiencing long-term fatigue — sometimes to a crippling degree. A staggering 91 percent of post-COVID-19 patients experienced at least one long-term complication (via Best Life).

Dr. Fauci notes, "[I]t's extraordinary how many people have a postviral syndrome that's very strikingly similar to myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome." A study of 153 people who were discharged from a hospital in Rome following COVID-19 infection found that, two months after their symptoms started, 53 percent still reported feeling fatigued (via Nature). And the exhaustion isn't limited to those who had severe cases. Even those with mild symptoms could be affected.

This worries doctors because another coronavirus disease — SARS — has already been shown to leave many of its patients chronically fatigued years after infection. The long-term effects of COVID-19 have yet to be observed, as it's still relatively new. But as Ali Gholamrezanezhad, a clinical radiologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, told Nature, "The problem is, to assess long-term consequences, the only thing you need is time."