July 16, 2020, Kitchener, Ontario
Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer
While much of the focus in the news has been on the mortality rates involved with COVID-19 getting the virus offers more to fear than that. The long term effects of COVID-19 are now becoming clear and they are nasty and debilitating for many.
COVID-19 is known to have a multi-organ effect on the human body.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in America is a leading clinical and research facility and they recently began a study to document the long term and short term influence of the virus on patients. Short term issues can include respiratory distress, and issues with blood clotting and strokes. Breathlessness, fatigue and muscle ache. Total loss of taste and smell are also well documented even in people who are otherwise asymptomatic. Gut and kidney issues have also presented as short term medical problems.
What is becoming more evident as we get farther into the epidemic though are longer term impacts on people.
COVID-19 shares many commonalities with SARS and the long term impacts of SARS are well documented. SARS impacts in the long run include half of the survivors having poor exercise capacity and over 20% of survivors were not able to return to work due after a year due to the to illness. After 3.5 years almost 40% of survivors still had diagnosed chronic fatigue.
It is well documented that viral infections like SARS and Epstein-Barr virus can trigger chronic fatigue that lasts for months or years. Physicians are now seeing this trend in the early survivors of COVID-19 as well.
Another well documented presentation of COVID-19 is how long the symptoms can last. Early on physicians suggested that recovery would take 1-2 weeks however in practice it appears that many people have symptoms for much longer. It is not uncommon to see the symptoms present for 8-10 weeks after which they wane and return with a vengeance. These observations are supported by a COVID-19 tracker app developed in the UK for people to record daily symptoms. Over 200,000 have been reporting their symptoms for more than 6 weeks.
Patterns have emerged from this data in which people are very ill, their symptoms nearly disappear then return. A very wide range of symptoms are also being recorded.
This week scientists are warning of a wave of COVID related brain damage which has been observed in some survivors of the disease. New research from University College London has now documented over 40 cases of patients who suffered either temporary brain dysfunction, stork, nerve damage or other serious brain effects. This research supports observations recorded here in Canada and the USA of individuals having had brains dysfunctions and strokes.
Brain damaged linked to viral disease is not uncommon. There was an epidemic of brain damage seen after the outbreak of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.
Although COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory virus which impacts and damages the lungs, physicians, neurologists, neuroscientists and other specialists all agree that emerging impact of brain damage is concerning. Given the large number of people recovering from the disease globally if even a few percentage of them have cognitive deficits it will have a large impact on the workforce and health care systems.
All of this research and clinical evidence points to the importance of avoiding getting the disease, wearing a mask in public places, avoiding crowded indoor spaces, social distancing, and it also points to the importance of having a strong and capable public health system to track the disease and patients closely.