August 3, 2020

UW Health addresses evidence of lingering COVID-19 symptoms

Madison, Wis. — UW Health wants the public to know that there is a growing body of evidence suggesting those who experience severe cases of COVID-19 can have lasting effects for weeks or months after symptoms first emerge. These symptoms can continue after they are discharged from the hospital or no longer test positive for the virus.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, less than 13 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were completely symptom free 60 days after the onset of their first symptom. Of the patients surveyed, 32 percent had 1 or 2 symptoms and 55 percent had 3 or more after 60 days. These symptoms include ongoing shortness of breath and fatigue, which can make daily life very challenging.

A study published in Radiology found 66 of 70 hospitalized COVID-19 patients had some amount of lung damage in CT scans, and more than half had the kind of lesions that are likely to develop into scars.

"We need people to understand that this virus isn’t just like the flu or that full recovery or death are the only outcomes," said Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer at UW Health. "People experience COVID-19 in many ways. People can see serious, lasting effects from COVID-19 which is another reason why we want the public to physically distance and wear masks. You do not want to get this disease because you do not know how it will affect you."

COVID-19 is still a very new virus and we are learning more about it all the time. As these studies continue to come out, our knowledge evolves, and health professionals continue to observe new or lasting symptoms and effects of COVID-19.