From the onset, the novel coronavirus was worrisome. It was new, virulent and its impact ranged from mild to deadly. Its victims seemed chosen at random, until the first data was gathered, and scientists began to see some patterns.
So far, there have been more than 22 million diagnosed cases of COVID 19 in the United States, and infection numbers continue to skyrocket nationwide. Although the vaccine has started to roll out, the risk of infection remains.
Most COVID-19 cases are mild, and some require hospitalization; experts estimate the overall recovery rate currently is between 97-99.75 percent.
But what if weeks, maybe even months, after you were infected, you still don’t feel like yourself. You may be what the experts call a “long hauler.”
Those first infected are not all better
Recently there have been concerns about the long-term symptoms in COVID-19 survivors. As more information has become available, scientists realize COVID is a multi-system disease that can potentially affect any organ. And the impact of that can linger for weeks and months.
A new study from Wuhan, China, finds that three out of four patients were continuing to suffer from at least one lingering health problem six months following their infection. The study involved more than 1,700 patients first diagnosed with the Wuhan virus between January and May 2020 and then followed June and September.
“Because COVID-19 is such a new disease, we are only beginning to understand some of its long-term effects on patients’ health,” said researcher Dr. Bin Cao, from the National Center for Respiratory Medicine at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital and Capital Medical University, both in Beijing.
And it’s not just China where these long haulers are still dealing with the after-effects of the virus.
According to Dr. Thomas Gut, associate chair of medicine at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City, they are in his hospital. “Long COVID’ is an evolving syndrome. Although the constellation of earlier associated symptoms is fairly well described, little is known about long-term outcomes.
Many of our patients report either new onset symptoms since COVID, or significantly worsened symptoms. Most of our patients are seeing gradual improvement in symptoms as time passes, but some are still experiencing lingering effects nearly a year after infection. For many patients, there is little clear explanation for their persistent symptoms even after extensive testing and even less clear treatment options at this point.”
Common symptoms reported
The most common symptoms that lingered after the initial infection included:
fatigue or muscle weakness, trouble sleeping and anxiety or depression.
But patients who had more severe cases of the disease more often had abnormal chest x-rays indicating organ damage, impaired lung function and reduced kidney function.
The researchers indicated most patients continue to live with some of the virus’s effects whether their case was mild or required hospitalization.
The Wuhan study was able to supply information on antibodies. They tracked survivor’s long-term immunity against COVID-19 and found levels of neutralizing antibodies against the new coronavirus fell by more than 52 percent after 6 months in 94 patients. This finding increases concern about the survivor’s reinfection rates.
Another study in the journal Science indicates the natural immunity to COVID-19 may last up to eight months, making the potential for reinfection less likely.
Even with vaccines on the horizon, COVID-19 is likely to continue disrupting health and lives for a while longer. For these reasons and more, Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, states the psychological toll on recovery cannot be ignored because it directly impacts how people continue with their lives.
He also expressed the importance of having appropriate resources in place, especially after an acute infection. “There will be a wave of patients with long COVID entering our medical systems requiring continuing care and rehabilitation.”
Hopefully the medical community will be able to meet that need, though they have been stretched thin over that last several months. But we are leaning too, from studies, about ways to boost our health during COVID.
What can you do to get through the long haul?
Bar none, vitamin D has come forward as the most important nutrient to take during the pandemic. Those with low levels of D in their blood are among the high number of infected.
Could it help post infection? It may help reduce reinfection risk and in one study where a group of patients received the standard treatment — along with vitamin D — only one patient was admitted to ICU and none died, compared to the other group where 13 went to ICU and 2 died.
A North Carolina University study has discovered that at least five different chemicals in green tea act to block the “main” protease in the SARS-CoV-2 virus, preventing the virus from replicating.
Rest should be a part of any recovery, as well as a healthy diet. But rest that includes movement, even if it’s a slow walk around the block can help you slowly regain your energy levels.
Talk with doctor with your doctor to see if supplements can be part of your recovery including:
- CoQ10 that boosts your mitochondria (cell energy) and PQQ (Pyrroloquinoline quinone) also a natural co-enzyme that helps your body produce more mitochondria (they drop off with age).
- Folate, a crucial brain nutrient and we know that COVID has long-lasting neurological symptoms like cognitive dysfunction, fatigue and loss of tase and smell.
- Probiotics have been shown to boost brain cognition.
Coronovirus Recovery — WebMD