As COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc worldwide, various data sources suggest that in India the recovery rate of COVID-19 is over 70% as of August 23, 2020. India currently has almost 2.4 million patients who have recovered from COVID-19. However, an important question still looms large – Does a COVID-19 survivor recover completely after hospital discharge?
The SARS-CoV-2 virus primarily affects the respiratory system and can cause life-threatening pneumonia. Current research shows the disease attacks more than just the respiratory system, affecting multiple organs with blood clots and inflammation. Almost 80% of COVID-19 infections are mild or asymptomatic, 15% are severe infections requiring oxygen and 5% are critical infections, requiring ventilation.
Current observations post COVID-19
Several COVID-19 recovered patients returning to doctors with conditions including breathlessness, cardiac, lung and other complications. According to a newly published study from Italy, many patients with even milder forms of COVID-19 have persistent symptoms of fatigue and difficulty breathing for up to 60 days post-infection. Furthermore, researchers of this Italian study report that almost 43% of recovered patients have worsened quality of life and almost 87% recovered patients have at least one persistent symptom even after two months of their recovery from the disease.
Post-recovery, some COVID-19 patients may continue to face a range of health issues, depending on the severity of the disease they explained earlier. There is limited evidence regarding long-lasting COVID-19 symptoms after the infection is gone. However, there have been reports of individuals still experiencing symptoms months after the infection, including continued loss of taste or smell, irregular heartbeats, chest pain, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, cognitive problems, and recurring fever.
Long term Complications
It is to be noted that not all recovered patients report long-term complications. Post COVID-19 patients who developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) could have a higher risk of long-term health issues.
- Several reports suggest that after recovering from severe COVID-19, some COVID-19 patients may experience lung damage including partial or complete lung scarring (lung fibrosis) that results in severe functional limitations.
- Gradually the scar tissue can destroy the normal lung and make it difficult for oxygen to get into the blood. Low oxygen levels can cause shortness of breath, particularly during physical exertion.
- Impaired lung function from SARS-CoV-2 infection can negatively affect other organs like the heart, kidneys and brain, with significant health impacts that may last after getting over the infection.
- According to a small study published in the journal JAMA Cardiology (July 27), some people who recover from COVID-19 may have lingering heart damage and inflammation of the heart muscle or myocarditis, months after their initial infection.
- Severe systemic inflammatory conditions during COVID-19 may aggravate irregular heartbeat in some individuals. The acute inflammation caused by the virus infection can worsen both cardiac and kidney function.
- Additionally, people requiring intensive care are at increased risk for mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression.
- Early reports from China and Europe revealed that some patients recovering from COVID-19 experienced anxiety and depression.
- In addition to mood disorders, several recovered patients may have neuropsychological symptoms including dizziness, numbed limbs, long-term loss of smell and taste, cognitive changes, such as difficulties with attention and memory and brain fog.
It is very important to all of us to take health and safety precautions concerning COVID-19 seriously. With reopening of businesses and public facilities, many cities are reporting an increase in the number of daily COVID-19 confirmed cases.
Safety precautions that we can take to minimize exposure and risk include:
- Physical distancing
- Wearing mask in public
- Regular handwashing
- Intake of Vitamin C supplements/food.
- Regular exercise
By adhering to government and local health regulatory guidance and continuing with these safety precautions, we all need to do our part to make sure the COVID-19 virus comes to an end.