KEY POINTS

  • Patients who have COVID-19 symptoms lasting for months are puzzling health experts
  • The symptoms of these COVID- patients continued without being fully resolved
  • Experts have two possible explanations as to why this is so

Health experts are getting alarmed at the number of coronavirus patients who are not getting better as their symptoms persist for a long time. An expert stated that more studies are needed to explain where the symptoms are originating from, prompting major medical centers nationwide to search for the answer on why there are patients who still have symptoms weeks or months after testing positive for COVID-19.

Fever For Over 100 Days

Among such patients is 47-year-old Amy Watson. She has been down with a fever for over 100 days now. The Portland preschool teacher has seen her temperature go up to 100 or 101 degrees Fahrenheit by midafternoon on an almost daily basis.

While her illness was not serious enough to require admission to a hospital, her symptoms continued and were never fully alleviated. Even her doctors did not have any conclusive answer. “My doctor has been very good at listening to me. She just doesn't have a lot of ideas as far as how to fix what's wrong,” the preschool teacher said.

Figuring Out Ways To Help Patients

Major hospitals may have realized the predicament that some of their patients are in, which is why there is now a growing movement among them to not only listen to what ails their patients but to also figure out ways on how to better help them. David Putrino, a physical therapist and an assistant professor at New York City’s Mount Sinai Health System, opined that doctors should not be setting aside the experience of individuals, particularly in the case of a disease that no one seems to fully know about.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization also admitted they know little about why some COVID-19 patients continue to have symptoms for a very long time. They assured everyone, however, that they are working to better understand the ailment’s recovery phase.

Getting Technology To Help

Dr. Jessica Dine, a Penn Medicine lung doctor, revealed she had noticed a subset of coronavirus patients whose symptoms remained long after they were diagnosed. She was able to observe this by using COVID Watch, a hospital program that performs daily check-ins with patients who are in their homes. She said that she is now working with these patients to have a better grasp of their illnesses and symptoms. 

Dr. Dine, who is also director of Penn Medicine’s advanced consultative pulmonary division, and her team began by first eliminating obvious causes of the patients’ long-term symptoms. These include secondary infection, a treatment side effect, or a complication of the virus.

"The first thing I do is make sure there is not something new going on, that we're not missing something,” Dr. Dine said. If they can eliminate other causes, Dr. Dine and her colleagues have two hypotheses for what might be happening.

The first is that it is possible the virus still exists somewhere in the body and may be hard to detect through regular testing. The other is that the virus may be gone but patients are experiencing what they call a post-viral inflammatory syndrome. This is a condition where the immune system of the body remains “revved up” even if the virus is gone.