coronavirus symptoms

One More Reason to Avoid COVID-19 Infection

“I feel like an old person; I’m only 46,” a bank examiner from Brooklyn, told the New York Post recently. “I don’t wish this on my worst enemy.” She contracted the virus March 23, and still experiences body aches, hot flashes, arthritis and her hair has been falling out in clumps.

As some people toss around phrases like “herd immunity” (the notion that the virus should spread through the population to eventually produce a general immunity) and blithely attend “covid parties” hoping to achieve the same effect, our concierge doctors thought we’d explore one of the lesser-known risks involved in that type of thinking.

‘Long haulers’

Many of those who survived the disease are beginning to speak out about the long-term effects they’re still experiencing months later.

Shelby Hedgecock first tested positive for COVID-19 in April, negative in May. Nevertheless, she tells CNN she is still having neurological issues, cognitive issues, shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of smell, and body aches and pains that send her to bed for days if she participates in even the gentlest forms of yoga.

“[My symptoms are] just all over the place, and I’m insanely tired,” she told CNN’s Chris Cuomo recently. Cuomo, who also contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic, reports similar lingering coronavirus symptoms.

Amy Watson, 47, of Portland, Oregon, appears to have been responsible for introducing the phrase “long hauler” which is now attached to the syndrome. Now in her sixth month of dealing with such coronavirus symptoms as painful burning sensations on her arms, torso, head and neck, she created a COVID-19 patient support group called Long Haul COVID Fighters.

Strange debilitating symptoms

Survivors on numerous online COVID-19 support groups describe a constellation of nearly 100 lingering symptoms.

Natalie Lambert, an associate professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, surveyed more than 1,500 members of a group called Survivor Corps.

“They’re not quite sick enough to be hospitalized, but they are suffering from very severe symptoms, sometimes for a very long time at home,” she told NBC News.

Respondents to her survey reported 98 different coronavirus symptoms they’d experienced since their diagnosis, including:

  • dizziness
  • anxiety
  • headache
  • rashes
  • joint pain
  • shortness of breath
  • heartburn
  • diarrhea
  • fevers
  • memory impairment
  • cognitive difficulties
  • sleep disturbances
  • vision problems

Alexandra Plazas-Herrera, 41, told the Post she suffered bleeding from her nail beds and the skin was peeling off her face a few months after catching COVID-19.

“It was super weird, like horror movie stuff,” she said, adding that she has also experienced a lingering fever, fatigue, persistent brain fog, poor coordination and inability to concentrate.

Many of those who report chronic symptoms had only mild or moderate cases of COVID-19; most were not serious enough to be hospitalized. A large number of them report they were healthy and “in the prime of their lives” before becoming infected. The syndrome also appears to affect all ages.

How common is this?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a survey in July of 292 people who had tested positive for the virus. It found 35 percent of respondents had not returned to their previous state of health. Other surveys, mainly in Europe, put the incidence as high as 80 percent.

Twenty percent of those in the CDC survey were between the ages of 18 and 34 with no prior chronic medical conditions.

“Data categorically show it’s a real thing,” David Putrino, a doctor of neuroscience and the Director of Rehabilitation Innovation at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, told ABC News. “These individuals are experiencing fatigue, dizziness, nausea, GI symptoms, pain . . . in the spine and chest.”

No one knows yet how long these troubling coronavirus symptoms will last; some survivors report early symptoms receding and being replaced with new ones.

Unanswered questions

Because the virus is still so new, medical science as yet has no answers for these people.

Jake Goldenstein, 20, still can’t walk down the street without becoming completely winded. He also suffers from debilitating headaches, digestive issues, congested sinuses and a racing heart.

“They gave me all types of medications. I was on a nebulizer, I was on multiple inhalers, they gave me multiple [antibacterial] medications, literally all types of medications,” the former hiker and baseball player told the Post. “None of them really seem to help.”

Lea Lane, a travel writer for Forbes caught COVID-19 in March. She’s seen pulmonologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, vascular specialists and neurologists. She reports her new primary care doctor told her she has “post-viral syndrome,” and “hopefully it will someday go away.”

If you experience lingering symptoms of COVID-19 infection, of course we will do our best to help manage them. But for now, our best advice is to avoid becoming infected in the first place:

  • avoid places with large crowds, especially indoors
  • always wear a face covering in public
  • wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds

Remember the primary means of transmission appears to be aerosolized virus particles emitted—including by those showing no symptoms—when talking, laughing, coughing, singing or just breathing. These aerosols can linger in the air for many minutes or even hours. So never go any place where you don’t feel safe.

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wear face masks

How Masks Stem the Spread of COVID-19

As cases of COVID-19 continue to soar here in Florida, our concierge doctors are disturbed by the number of people who still refuse to wear face masks in public. We believe it’s because they don’t understand the usefulness of face masks in stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

So we’d like to explain the rationale behind the need for everyone to wear face coverings when they are around other people.


New knowledge

One study published last month in the journal Lancet found that, without a mask or social distancing, the risk of transmitting the virus to others is 17.4 percent. With a mask, that number drops to 3.1 percent.

Another British study released last month showed that if everyone wore face masks when they weren’t showing symptoms of the illness, it would be twice as effective at reducing transmission of the virus than if they wait until symptoms appear.

“Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of face masks by the public,” said Richard Stutt, a co-leader of the study at Cambridge University, adding that this measure combined with social distancing could be “an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and reopening economic activity.”

And according to a study by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation IMHE), if 95 percent of Americans wore face masks in public, it could prevent 33,000 deaths in the next three months, with 7,870 deaths prevented here in Florida alone.

“People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50 percent,” said IMHE Director Dr. Christopher Murray,” and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk.”


Easy spread

The problem with the SARS-Cov-2 virus is that it is remarkably easy to spread, and that at least a third of those who have it show no symptoms for several days, so they don’t know they’re infecting others.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently used laser light-scattering technology to reveal how even normal speech emits thousands of oral fluid droplets per second that can linger in the air in confined spaces for up to 14 minutes afterward. Coughing, talking, laughing, and singing produce even more potentially infected droplets.

Wearing protective face coverings significantly cuts down on the spread of these droplets.


All ages at risk

This is important because so far we do not have reliable treatments for COVID-19, although the drug remdesivir has been shown to shorten hospital stays by about four days. We do not have a vaccine, and may not have one for many months, or longer.

The only real—and effective—weapon we have against the SARS-CoV-2 virus is denying it new human hosts. And that means keeping our respiratory droplets to ourselves, whether through social distancing or wearing face coverings, or both.

Some people—especially younger people—resist wearing a mask because they think they’re invulnerable to the virus, or that it won’t affect them seriously if they do contract it.

There are two problems with that thinking.

First, according the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those in the 18-49 year old cohort have gone from accounting for about 27 percent of hospitalizations during the week ending March 7th to 35 percent last week. Note that these are hospitalizations, not infections, meaning that younger people were sick enough to require emergency care.

Here in Florida, the median age of those infected has dropped from 65 to 35, which Gov. Ron DeSantis attributes to increased social interaction in younger age groups.


Perpetuating the pandemic

Second, as more young people become infected, they pass it to others their own age and older, including people who are immune-compromised.

Last week, Vice President Pence urged young people to take the virus seriously, to practice social distancing, and to wear face masks.

“Younger Americans have a particular responsibility to make sure that they’re not carrying the coronavirus into settings where they would expose the most vulnerable,” he said.

As Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS News last week, “A risk for you is not just isolated to you, because if you get infected, you are part—innocently or inadvertently—of propagating the dynamic process of a pandemic.”

The paradox is that not wearing a mask is actually hurting the economy, along with other people, and prolonging the misery.

Miami, Palm Beach, and Broward county beaches will now be closed for the Fourth of July weekend. Many bars and restaurants that had been open here were forced to close, throwing more people out of work, and further frustrating those who have spent so many months confined to their homes and who had wanted to resume their normal lives.

“For pretty much every state that we’ve looked at, if we can get people to wear masks, we can not only save lives but . . . we can also save the economy, because we can keep businesses going,” IMHE’s Murray said.

In other words, those who aren’t part of solution are a part of the problem.

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