KEY POINTS

  • Experts are still learning about long-term health consequences of COVID-19
  • Fauci warns people of a condition called post-viral syndrome
  • Symptoms of the post-viral syndrome include chronic fatigue and brain fog  
     

Over 7 million people have recovered from the COVID-19. However, many of them still suffer from long-lasting symptoms called post-viral syndrome.

Even six months after COVID-19 was identified, the medical community is still learning about the disease’s long-term effects. As of now, it is known that COVID-19 can cause heart damage, lung damage, stroke and several neurological issues.  

COVID-19 could also lead to potentially debilitating consequences termed post-viral syndrome, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who spoke at the International AIDS conference. "Brain fog, fatigue, and difficulty in concentrating. So this is something we really need to seriously look at because it very well might be a post-viral syndrome associated with COVID-19," Healthline quoted Dr. Fauci.

The syndrome could be due to cytokines crossing the blood barrier and interacting with their brain. Cytokines are small proteins that are essential in cell signaling.

Experts said post-viral or chronic fatigue syndrome can occur in any case of viral disease and it is basically unexplained, persistent and relapsing fatigue. The condition is more commonly observed in women than in men.

“We can now see documented abnormalities in your nervous, immune, and metabolic systems. So we’re seeing abnormalities in all three that create myalgic encephalomyelitis.”  Dr. Donna Casey, an internist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas told Healthline.

Although the post-viral syndrome can occur in individuals of all ages, it could be worse in older patients and those with underlying health conditions. However, most people experiencing post-viral syndrome do improve with time as doctors did observe hospitalized COVID-19 patients were getting better.

COVID-19 isn’t the regular flu where people recover easily, experts warned. However, they weren’t sure if it is the live virus or the immune system’s reaction that was causing the post-viral syndrome.

Treatment for post-viral syndrome can be through reassurance, self-care and symptomatic control. Most patients suffer from sleep disturbances, which can be addressed by following sleep hygiene measures. In extreme cases, doctors prescribe sleep medications or low-dose antidepressants to help people. Yoga and meditation are also recommended.

Since there aren’t any FDA-approved treatments for the post-viral syndrome, experts recommended therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise, acupuncture and massage.

Anthony Fauci warned of 100,000 new cases a day in the US if enough work wasn't done to suppress the disease Anthony Fauci warned of 100,000 new cases a day in the US if enough work wasn't done to suppress the disease Photo: POOL / Al Drago