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Patients found to have lingering COVID symptoms for months after illness

Aster Mekonen disinfects surfaces during her cleaning shift at Harborview Medical Center on Aug. 20, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. Mekonen, a member of the hospitals environmental services department, is trained in COVID-19 protocols and can work in both standard and COVID-19 areas. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

New evidence and data from medical literature indicates that people may suffer from COVID-19 symptoms long-term, including patients who didn’t have a serious case.

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Dr. Jennifer Ross, acting professor of medicine, infectious diseases, and global health at University of Washington School of Medicine, says it’s very common for patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19 to have lingering symptoms, in some cases for months after their illness.

“Some patients who don’t require hospitalization for COVID-19 are still having cough and fatigue several weeks after their illness,” Ross added.

In addition to lung problems, there are indications that COVID-19 can affect your heart and brain. Even a couple of months after hospitalization, many patients are experiencing fatigue, shortness of breath, problems with their memory, or difficulty concentrating.

“I was surprised with, I would say, how commonly people continued to have symptoms after their illness,” Ross said. “We know that when people are hospitalized that it takes some time to recover, even from pneumonia or more common causes, but this was more than I expected.”

These findings come out of the “COVID-19 Literature Situation Report,” which started with 40 subscribers five months ago and now has more than 2,100, including members of the CDC, the Washington State Department of Health, universities, and the general public. Dr. Ross is one of the literature reviewers.

“One of the things that we covered in this report was the number of studies that are ongoing to try and understand the long-term effects of COVID-19, and there are many,” Ross said. “So as the literature report team, we will continue to follow the findings of those additional studies and put together a summary for what is the emerging evidence of COVID-19 effects.”

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One report that caught their attention found that there was inflammation in the heart muscle for many COVID-19 patients, but Ross says it’s not yet known what that may lead to over time as all of the long-term effects are still being understood.

“It’s a good reminder for all of us to do everything we can to prevent infection in ourselves and in our communities,” she said. “There are still many unknowns about this new virus, and we may not know the full picture of all the symptoms yet.”

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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