By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor Aug 24, 2020
The United States has now recorded more than 5 million confirmed
cases of COVID-19, which means that millions of people are now recovering from
the disease – which is proving to be another long and complex battle in itself.
Since the first outbreak of the coronavirus in early spring 2020, researchers
and clinicians have been studying individuals who have recovered from COVID-19
to track their recovery process and lingering symptoms. Their post-viral
symptoms include everything from ongoing respiratory distress to heart issues
and much more.
Some of the earliest research on this topic was just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in early July. The researchers studied 143 patients from Italy who had been
hospitalized with COVID-19 and survived, and they found that four in five of
these patients were still reporting symptoms two months later.
More than six months after the disease was first identified, Anthony
Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases (NIAID) and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, warned
the country about “post-viral syndrome” following COVID-19 during a recent
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What is post-viral syndrome?
Post-viral syndrome is not unique to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has
puzzled physicians and disease researchers for years. It can pop up after any viral
infection and is widely known throughout the medical community as myalgic
encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).
Post-viral symptoms can include “brain fog, fatigue, and difficulty in
concentrating,” explained Fauci at the International AIDS Conference that took
place in California in July. “So this is something we really need to seriously
look at because it very well might be a post-viral syndrome associated with
According to data estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) taken from a 2015 report published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), up
to 2.5 million Americans have ME/CFS, although many likely remain undiagnosed.
The symptoms of
post-viral fatigue syndrome
According to information from the CDC, ME/CFS “is a serious, long-term illness that affects
many body systems. People with ME/CFS are often not able to do their usual
activities. At times, ME/CFS may confine them to bed. People with ME/CFS have
severe fatigue and sleep problems. ME/CFS may get worse after people with the
illness try to do as much as they want or need to do. This symptom is known as
post-exertional malaise (PEM). Other symptoms can include problems with
thinking and concentrating, pain, and dizziness.”
difficulty concentrating and/or sleeping, brain fog, and dizziness and
lightheadedness (orthostatic intolerance) are the hallmark symptoms of
post-viral syndrome and ME/CFS. Although there is no cure or approved treatment
for this syndrome yet, physicians are treating symptoms with a variety of
medications, therapies and tools.
To combat fatigue that can affect day-to-day life, the CDC recommends a host of
solutions such as meditation, gentle exercise such as yoga, therapy /
professional counseling, nutritional supplements, rest and more.
Support for COVID-19
survivors and post-viral syndrome patients
Mount Sinai Hospital in California has become
a leading resource for both
active- and post-COVID-19 care. It has also become
a center of information and data collection/surveys for those with post-viral
symptoms. They offer a COVID-19 recovery program, live town halls, weekly
seminars and additional resources for their clinicians and other team members.
Other hospitals and facilities are now following suit by providing ongoing support
to COVID-19 survivors, including both those affected and unaffected by post-viral
Online support groups are also popping up all
over social media platforms such as Facebook, allowing survivors to connect and
share their symptoms, recovery process and treatment. As the healthcare
community continues to uncover more about the lingering effects of post-viral
syndrome, patients can at least connect with fellow sufferers to discuss solutions
and wellness tips as they battle the symptoms.
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