The minimal evidence of serious impact of COVID infection on young healthy individuals has been one of the bright spots of this pandemic. Overall, only a small percentage of those infected, mostly the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions, get very sick, and an even smaller number die.
But a new piece in The Atlantic lays out mounting evidence that many younger patients don’t spring back to good health after a few weeks, as common wisdom suggests; instead, they experience debilitating long-term effects, months after infection. The profile of the average patient with “Long-COVID” is just 44 years old, and previously fit and healthy.
She (the condition is much more common in women) likely suffered a mild initial infection. But now, months later, she still faces a wide range of symptoms. Some patients have significant chronic pulmonary or cardiac function abnormalities (like Georgia State’s star freshman quarterback recruit, sidelined for the year with post-COVID myocarditis).
But others are dealing with a different, but just as debilitating, set of symptoms resembling chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
And like CFS patients, many COVID “long-haulers” find their symptoms minimized by their doctors. Early studies show that large numbers of patients may be affected: in a series of 270 non-hospitalized patients, the CDC found a full third hadn’t returned to their usual health after two weeks (as compared to just 10 percent of influenza patients).
A handful of centers have taken the first step toward better understanding “Long-COVID”, establishing dedicated clinics to study and treat the growing number of patients for whom COVID-19 is turning out to be a chronic disease, leaving a wave of people with long-term disabilities in its wake.