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Mask up or months out of commission? Long-term effects of COVID-19 start to take shape.

You do not want to get this disease no matter how old or young you are. 

One in 10 people across all age groups who get COVID-19 end up needing hospital care and report long lasting health issues. It can take months to recover. Many people who became sick in March have not yet fully recovered.

How long does it take people to recover?

It can take a long time to recover from COVID-19. In Georgia, half of hospitalized people stayed for more than 8 days, including for people 18-49. One third needed help breathing, and half of those spent at least 9 days on a ventilator.

A study published this month by JAMA looked at how long critically ill COVID-19 patients continue to suffer symptoms. The outlook was grim. Two months after onset of COVID-19, 87% reported symptoms, including fatigue (53.1%), shortness of breath (43.4%), and joint (27.3%) and chest pain (21.7%). We need more information on how long people will face these complications.

Woman in hospital bed

People with milder cases also suffer for a long time.

We have less information about patients who didn’t need to be hospitalized. One study, which has not undergone peer review, suggested 13% of telemedicine managed COVID-19 patients needed continued care 6 weeks after their illness.

Long-term symptoms are common among both severe and mild illnesses:

  • A recent patient-led survey found more than 600 patients still had symptoms 50 days after their illness started.
  • More than two thirds did not have enough energy to be physically active like before.

The Atlantic magazine recently reported on social media groups devoted to people still recovering from COVID-19 three months after symptoms started.

It’s a new disease, and we are still learning.

We have a long way to go before we fully understand this disease. We don’t know how common these long-term complications are. Are they permanent? Will they just go away? It is still too early to tell. We need more research.

Meanwhile, you can take simple steps to protect not only you but also your family and neighbors: 

  • Wear a mask when you leave home. No shirt, no shoes, no mask? No service. 
  • Limit your interactions to a small circle of friends and family.
  • Stay close to home.
  • Keep gatherings small and outside if possible.
  • Fresh air and more physical distancing space can keep you safe.
  • Stay 6 feet apart from others.
  • Wash your hands, cover your cough, and keep up your best hygiene and sanitation.
  • Get tested if:
    • You think you were exposed.
    • You are a member of a heavily impacted community.
    • You are experiencing symptoms.

Protect your friends, your family, and yourself. Do your best to avoid getting COVID-19–and learning about its complication firsthand. 

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