Four months after testing positive for coronavirus, Hannah Davis is still experiencing debilitating symptoms as a member of an unlucky group taking to social media to warn about #LongCovid.
Known as coronavirus “long haulers” (a nickname they’ve given themselves) the growing number of people who suffer from symptoms over many months has so far confounded doctors and highlighted the limits of our understanding of what the virus is capable of.
Working as a research and data scientist in New York, Ms Davis has been chronicling her long-term battle with coronavirus online.
“I just crossed the four month mark,” she wrote this week.
“I am young and I was healthy. Dying is not the only thing to worry about.”
In countries where the virus has become widespread, including the US and the UK, people are speaking up about the difficulty they have faced fighting extremely stubborn cases of COVID-19 and being unable to land the winning blow.
“I still have a near-daily fever, loss of cognitive function, essential tremors, GI [Gastrointestinal] issues, severe headaches, heart rate of 150+, viral arthritis, heart palpitations, muscle aches, a feeling like my body has forgotten to breathe.
“Over the past 124 days I've lost all feeling in my arms and hands, had extreme back/kidney/rib pain, phantom smells,” she wrote.
Sadly, the list goes on.
“Tinnitus, difficulty understanding text/reading, difficulty following conversations, sensitivity to noise & light, nonstop bruising,” she continued.
Ms Davis said thinking was prompting headaches for her now, a symptom others in a similar situation have complained about.
“I'm not alone in the cognitive issues; it's as common a symptom as cough,” Ms Davis wrote on Twitter.
In online support groups, the cognitive trouble faced by patients has been dubbed “brain fog”.
It causes flareups of other viruses, past surgeries, other conditions. Old injuries are raw & feel new again. My left leg & foot, injured in a moped accident in 2017, feels crushed like it happened yesterday.
Intolerance to exercise, alcohol, caffeine, & stress are common. 6/
— Hannah Davis 🦈🛋 (@ahandvanish) July 26, 2020
Long-haulers reveal ‘teasing’ nature of coronavirus
A number of coronavirus groups dedicated to long-haulers have popped up on Facebook where people discuss their ongoing symptoms and, in some cases, share stories about the difficulty they have faced seeking adequate medical treatment.
Some lament the “teasing” nature of the virus that refuses to relent.
“My son and I have been sick since the end of April,” one woman wrote in a popular long-haulers discussion group on Thursday.
“One good day, then confusion, achy muscles, trouble swallowing, nausea. My son had a rash on his hand that took months to get better and it tried to come back. I get itchy hands at night.”
Because testing is a mess in many US states, with lengthy delays, some long haulers are unsure about how long they should self-isolate for, and the level of contagion risk they pose.
“No one knows when #longcovid patients aren't contagious; many are alone for months,” Ms Davis wrote this week.
Nearly 100 symptoms for more than 100 days
Ms Davis is far from alone in having a laundry list of coronavirus symptoms. In a survey released this week by the Indiana University, long-haulers reported experiencing 98 different symptoms during their COVID-19 battle.
Dr Natalie Lambert, who conducted the survey, said it revealed long-haulers’ virus symptoms were far more numerous than what is currently listed by the country’s peak infectious disease body, the CDC.
“While the impact of COVID-19 on the lungs and vascular system has received some media and medical attention, the results of this survey suggest that brain, whole body, eye, and skin symptoms are also frequent-occurring health problems for people recovering from COVID-19,” the research paper says.
As the pandemic drags on, more and more patients in hard-hit countries are realising coronavirus isn’t necessarily a quick fight – but what makes some people unluckier than others remains unclear.
Speaking to MSNBC Wednesday (local time), America’s top infectious disease expert leading the country’s coronavirus taskforce, Dr Anthony Fauci, said not everyone returns to normal after beating the novel coronavirus.
“When people get infected, and get sick, and maybe are in bed for a few weeks,” he said.
“We're starting to see that they do not recover as completely and as quickly as you would like.
“How long does it take you to get back to normal? That's an open question,” he added. “We're only six months into the outbreak.”
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