By Katarina Zimmer in The Scientist.
A handful of viruses have been associated with long-term, debilitating symptoms in a subset of those who become infected. Early signs hint that SARS-CoV-2 may do the same.
When 32-year-old artist Hannah Davis fell sick in late March this year, her symptoms were so severe that even watching movies in bed in her Brooklyn apartment was impossible, she says. She began having difficulties reading text messages, and she soon lost the ability to follow a movie plot.
While some flu-like symptoms, such as exhaustion and a cough, improved over time, her memory loss and other cognitive difficulties have only grown worse, she says, and she also experiences sporadic bursts of blurred vision, a racing heart, difficulties breathing, insomnia, and various aches and pains. “It sounds really insane,” she tells The Scientist. “I’ve been sick for three months, which just sounds so ridiculous to so many doctors.”
While the first physicians she saw didn’t take her symptoms seriously, Davis says, she found support in an online group for COVID-19 survivors battling long-term effects. In an informal survey of 640 of the groups’ members conducted by Davis and others, many report prolonged symptoms, from chest pain and gastrointestinal issues to cognitive problems and debilitating fatigue. Only around 23 percent of respondents had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, however. Some, like Davis, were denied tests early on because the tests were reserved for the most critically ill (often hospitalized cases only), but based on the bizarre nature of their symptoms that coincided with the wave of coronavirus infections in the US, many members of the online group are certain they have been infected. (Davis later tested negative around a month after symptom onset, when viral loads would normally have faded below detectable levels, but her doctors concluded she had had COVID-19 based on her symptoms.)
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