The COVID-19 patients whose symptoms linger for months
07/07/2020 // Tracey Watson // Views

Paul Garner, an infectious diseases expert with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, calls himself one of “Boris Johnson’s herd immunity group,” the patients who contracted COVID-19 in the UK before the country instituted any lockdown measures.

His symptoms began with a very mild cough, but within days he developed multiple other symptoms, including exhaustion, loss of sense of smell, and a racing heart – symptoms that left him feeling like he had been “clubbed over the head with a cricket bat.”

As reported by The Guardian, at one stage Garner became convinced that he was going to die from the disease. He felt so ill, in fact, that he was not even able to navigate a screen to Google his disease.

Nonetheless, he never imagined that his battle with COVID-19 would continue for seven weeks in a “rollercoaster of ill health, extreme emotions and utter exhaustion.”

And he is not alone. More and more people are reporting an array of symptoms that nobody thought to associate with the coronavirus, and many are finding that the disease can take hold for far longer than the two weeks that they have been warned to expect. (Related: Coronavirus survivors face a long road ahead as they struggle with long-term damage.)

‘A new and disturbing symptom every day’

Garner reports that while he was fighting the coronavirus he had to battle a new and devastating symptom each day.

The Guardian reported:

He had a muggy head, upset stomach, tinnitus, pins and needles, breathlessness, dizziness and arthritis in the hands. Each time Garner thought he was getting better the illness roared back. It was a sort of virus snakes and ladders.


“It’s deeply frustrating,” he wrote in a blog post for the British Medical Journal. “A lot of people start doubting themselves. Their partners wonder if there is something psychologically wrong with them.”

Garner reports that he has received multiple emails and phone calls from other coronavirus patients who have experienced the exact same thing, some of whom were left feeling like they were losing their minds.

Research indicates that around one in 20 COVID-19 patients experience long-term symptoms. Garner compares it to dengue fever, a viral infection which comes and goes for between six and nine months. (Related: Coronavirus after effects could include strokes, seizures and persistent confusion, according to new research.)

Professor Tim Spector of King’s College London, is head of the research group tasked with developing the Covid-19 tracker app. Between 3 and 4 million people who suspect they might have the disease have been using the app to log their symptoms each day as part of a six week study.

Spector reports that of these, around 200,000 have reported having symptoms that lingered for at least six weeks.

He warns that there may be many more people in the community who are experiencing these debilitating symptoms.

“These people may be going back to work and not performing at the top of their game,” Spector told The Guardian. “There is a whole other side to the virus which has not had attention because of the idea that ‘if you are not dead you are fine.’”

One thing is for sure: Every time we think we understand this novel coronavirus new information emerges that makes us realize that we actually know very little about it.

“The virus is certainly causing lots of immunological changes in the body, lots of strange pathology that we don’t yet understand,” warns Professor Garner. “This is a novel disease. And an outrageous one. The textbooks haven’t been written.”

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