When the first cases of COVID-19 were identified less than a year ago, the symptom list was relatively short. Amongst the most commonly identified traits of the virus? Shortness of breath, fever, and dry cough. However, in the months that followed, researchers have identified more and more signs of the virus, ranging from its initial manifestations to prolonged—and even long-term–damage to an individual's health. On Tuesday, during a pre-recorded address for the American Heart Association's virtual Scientific Sessions, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation's leading infectious disease expert, revealed a frightening new effect of the virus that could have serious long-term repercussions. Read on to hear his warning, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
COVID-19 Can Lead to Heart Inflammation—In People Who Have Recovered
According to Dr. Fauci, in addition to other underlying medical problems linked to severe COVID-19 infections, chronic heart conditions can arise. He specifically noted reports of possible heart inflammation in people who have recovered.
One of them? A German study published in JAMA Cardiology. Using MRIs it found that of people who recovered from the virus, a whopping 78% of patients had cardiac involvement and 60% had ongoing myocardial inflammation, which could lead to chronic damage.
He also pointed to another study of college athletes, showing that of those infected with the virus and underwent cardiac MRI, 15% had findings consistent with myocarditis.
"This needs to be repeated in other labs and followed up," he said. "But if it is true, it's something we need long-term follow up (on)."
He also noted other potential long term damage the virus is capable of wreaking. "If you look at the manifestations of severe COVID-19, they are plentiful." Fauci said. "I mentioned the cardiac ones, but they're also acute respiratory distress syndrome. There is kidney injury, neurological injury, a hypercoagulable state manifested by microthrombosis in small vessels and acute thrombotic phenomenon, sometimes seen in otherwise well, young individuals."
How to Avoid an Inflammed Heart During the Pandemic
The best way to avoid COVID-19 health damage? By not getting infected in the first place. His steps for doing so: "One is the universal wearing of masks or cloth coverings. The other is maintaining physical distances – at least six feet." Additionally avoiding crowds, particularly indoors, staying outdoors instead of indoors, and frequently washing hands.
"If those five public health measures were adhered to universally and consistently over the country," Fauci said, "it is clear from my previous experience with other nations and even regions in our own country, we would not be having the degree of surging of cases that we are currently seeing."
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear your face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, stay outdoors more than indoors. "We have seen what happens when you don't do that by the very unfortunate experiences that have become very public now in the United States. I mean, that's proof positive," says Dr. Anthony Fauci. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.