Over the last several months, our understanding of COVID-19 has evolved drastically. While many people make a full recovery from a coronavirus infection, there are others who suffer lingering symptoms for months on end. During a Q&A with Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci discussed the group of people health experts have dubbed long haulers. He revealed that 20 or 25 percent of people who have cleared the virus — some of who barely experienced initial symptoms — have "an unexplainable symptom complex that seems to be consistent among them without any laboratory data to indicate why they may be feeling that way." If you suspect that you battled COVID-19 earlier in the year, and might fall into the long-hauler category, and have what's called Post-COVID Viral Syndrome. Here are the symptoms per Dr. Fauci. Read on, and to protect your life and the lives of others, and don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
While fatigue is one of the initial symptoms signaling an infection, the majority of long haulers continue to experience overwhelming exhaustion long after the virus is gone, per Dr. Fauci.
Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath is another trademark symptom of COVID-19, per the CDC. However, if the difficulty breathing doesn't subside, it could signify long hauler syndrome. "People who are in good shape, athletes, have trouble climbing a flight of stairs," Fauci explained.
Many long haulers have trouble sleeping, explains Fauci.
Fauci explains that a phenomenon called dysautonomia, or autonomic dysfunction, can be one symptom. "Dysautonomia refers to a group of medical conditions caused by problems with the autonomic nervous system (ANS)," reports the Cleveland Clinic. "This part of your nervous system controls involuntary body functions like your heartbeat, breathing and digestion. When the ANS doesn't work as it should, it can cause heart and blood pressure problems, trouble breathing and loss of bladder control.
Brain fog is "another unfortunate word" to describe a symptom of long term COVID. It "really means they have difficulty concentrating and focusing where you're looking at a computer screen and you just can't focus on what you're doing," he explained.
Organ System Dysfunction
Fauci added that there is another type of long-term health damage that has been documented in COVID survivors who suffered more severe cases of the virus. "If someone goes in the hospital with COVID, they get difficulties breathing, they get intubated and put on a ventilator. They get pneumonia when they recover, because they have such damage to their lungs or sometimes to their heart or to their kidney," he explained. "It may be months and months, and maybe even longer — because we don't know yet because we've only been doing this for less than a year — where they have organ system dysfunction that is residual, maybe indefinitely."
You May Survive COVID, But It Doesn't Mean Your Struggles Are Over
Bottom line? Some people simply don't bounce back from the virus. "The idea that you get infected, either get no symptoms or you die, and if you don't die, you're okay — I think that there are going to be a lot of things that we're going to be following that people are going to have trouble even after they recover," he concluded.
How to Avoid "Long COVID"
Observe Fauci's fundamentals: Wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with, practice good hand hygiene and, to protect your life and the lives of others, don't miss the full, extended list of Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.