LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - With all the restrictions, cancellations, changes, and such during the coronavirus pandemic, it can feel like we’ve been going through this a long time. The reality is for doctors and researchers - it’s a short amount of time when it comes to knowing what the virus will do to the human body long-term.
Doctors have to remind patients they just are not always going to know the answers to their questions. The physicians themselves have their own inquiries that go unresolved."There’s a lot of information we just don’t have. Being safe is really a good thing to do," says Dr. Ian Davis, a hospitalist at Lexington Medical Center. He says most COVID-19 patients will be just fine. “More than 98% of the patients are doing great. They get out of the hospital, they survive. Most of them don’t even come to the hospital. But there is that small portion of patients who don’t do well.”
And it’s those in that small portion who have an exaggerated response to the virus.
“Because it is an inflammatory process more than a lot of other viruses, we are seeing an increased risk of blood clots,” Dr. Davis said. Those blood clots could be in the lungs - which can be fatal. And inflammation can take over the body and cause sepsis - a life-threatening condition caused by the body responding to the infection. And these at-risk patients also will have an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Dr. Davis says because we are really only six months into the pandemic, it’s hard to know what the long-term effects will be in five or so years.
“Patients do have an increased risk of death if this is going to have the same sort of long-term consequences as other coronavirus-related illnesses like SARS or MERS,” Dr. Davis said. And for patients who already have had COVID, keep in mind the inflammation may linger in the lungs for a while."I would be especially cautious. Keep wearing a mask," Davis warns.
Dr. Davis says until physicians and researchers know more, his big advice is to protect yourself. Protect others. The future will tell more. And the doctor says just because someone has had COVID-19 does not mean he or she is protected from other diseases. In fact, the person could be even more susceptible to other viruses.