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The Many Ways COVID-19 Lingers, For Months, in Some People

July 27, 2020

Many liken the COVID-19 virus to the flu, something experts have refuted since the pandemic began in late winter; now, there’s a new differentiator – effects of the new, novel virus can linger far longer than the flu.

“We’re seeing that major severe symptoms are lasting up to three months,” said Dr. Faiqua Cheema, an infectious disease specialist with Hartford HealthCare. “This is not like the flu. It lasts much longer.”

These lingering symptoms can include body aches, shortness of breath, joint pain, fatigue, brain fogginess, fever and a cough. The virus can also affect the lungs, kidneys and lungs, Dr. Cheema added. Also related are blood-clotting issues that send clots to the patient’s lungs and toes, she said.

This is not just happening to people with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease when they contract COVID-19, either, which confounds healthcare professionals. In a recent Italian study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 88 percent of people who had been hospitalized with the virus reported having at least one symptom that lingered. More than half had three or more.

Such information is part of the evolving body of knowledge of COVID-19, Dr. Cheema noted.

“At the beginning, we thought it was affecting people over 60 more. More recently, we’re more commonly seeing a lot of younger people impacted by the virus, people in their 30s, 40s and even 50s,” she said. “We’re all vulnerable to this infection.”

Permanent damage is also being attributed to severe cases of COVID-19, including to the brain, liver and heart as well as fibrosis or scarring of the lungs.

Knowing that many people compare the virus to other diseases like chickenpox, which can lay dormant for years and recur, Dr. Cheema said the data does not show COVID-19 behaves in the same manner.

“The symptoms just linger, they do not lay dormant,” she said. “We don’t take viruses for granted. We advocate for better support for public health infrastructure. This is not going to be one and done.

“Trust science and scientific leaders, and advocate for your health.”

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent Care provider.

Stay with Hartford HealthCare for everything you need to know about the coronavirus threat. Click here for information updated daily.

Questions? Call our 24-hour hotline (860.972.8100 or, toll-free, 833.621.0600). 

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