Dr. Craig Spencer, an emergency room doctor in New York City, was no stranger to dangerous viruses when a brush with one landed him in Bellevue Hospital for 19 days. But it was only after he was discharged, and declared virus-free, that the really bizarre symptoms set in.
Back at home, he noticed he couldn’t taste anything for several days. For months, he was tired all the time and his joints felt heavy and painful. When he woke up in the morning, his back was “stiff like a bamboo rod.” His weight dropped, and clumps of hair fell out. Though the physical effects eventually faded, cognitive complications persist to this day — what he describes as “a subtle but noticeable difference in concentration and ability to form new memories.”
If Spencer’s constellation of ongoing symptoms — fatigue, muscle and joint pain, memory issues — sounds familiar, it’s because it has become a frightening feature of some coronavirus infections, an epidemic of long-term illness within the pandemic. For the Covid-19 “long-haulers,” symptoms can persist for weeks or even months, long after being discharged from the hospital or testing positive for the virus, if they even saw a doctor or got diagnosed at all.
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