Hello there. My name is Dr. Cameron Jones and I'm an environmental microbiologist. And in this week's live stream, I'm going to be covering some research highlights, focusing on the longterm implications of SARS CoV-2 virus. Now, that's right. No one wants to get the virus. No one wants to be tested and find out that they're positive, but we're going to be focusing on the longterm implications of this illness. And, in fact, those people are starting to call themselves long haulers. And there are some trending hashtags in social media, and I thought I would dive into the research literature and bring you back some of the key points of this research because it could happen to you and we do need to be aware of all of this.
So does COVID-19 have longterm impact? Well, we're still learning all about the implications of this illness and that's the very problem. We don't know what's going to happen in the long term. Obviously, the clinical response is becoming better understood, but we know that patients are experiencing longterm symptoms and these are becoming widely discussed in the research literature and not just in the medical literature, and certainly in the mainstream press as well.
And what does this mean? This means not returning to normal health, perhaps two to three weeks after first testing positive. And we know that this is happening to approximately 35% of people. And as I mentioned, the medical and scientific literature is beginning to explore this important topic.
Now, what does the research literature have to say about this? Well, it is, in fact, a new field of study so there are really only about 10 or 12 publications focusing on this. Now, I've gone through all of these this week and I'm going to talk about one of the main ones, which is a small research study from Rome that was looking at 147 patients. And 87% of those, when they got out of the hospital, one symptom was experienced by them for at least 60 days.
Now think about it. You've been discharged from hospital, but you've still got ongoing symptoms. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, okay, 13% of the people were A-okay. They recovered and returned to normal health, but 32% are experiencing one to two symptoms two months later. And 55% of this group, the long haulers, are experiencing adverse health symptoms 60 days later, and they're experiencing three symptoms.
So what are these symptoms? Well, they are the common ones, fatigue, shortness of breath, often called dyspnea, joint pain, chest pain. And some really high profile individuals in the media are starting to talk about their experience as long haulers. Famously, Chris Cuomo, a CNN journalist, and Alyssa Milano, a famous actress who appeared in Melrose Place and in Charmed. She's talked about her hair falling out. Chris Cuomo has spoken about his battle with chronic fatigue and even depression.
And you can see in the graph that I've put up, which is extracted from the Rome study, that there is this long tail of symptoms that are often experienced during the acute phase of the infection, persisting for some: one, two months after the initial infection. And this is very concerning!
Now, if we move away from the clinical experience, what the medical doctors are writing in their journals, and we move to social media, some other scientists have been delving into what's appearing in social media. And the most important hashtags, if you yourself want to follow this dialogue online, look up long COVID, chronic COVID, long haulers. These are the hashtags that people, just like you and I, who might have been exposed to COVID-19, might've had COVID-19 I should say, are experiencing and talking about.
And this is called patient-led research. And patient-led support groups are popping up all over the internet, on Slack, on Facebook. And if we go into this, as these scientists have done, they similarly find that fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, and cough are in the top five symptoms, just like were discovered by the medical researchers and scientists.
Importantly, other less common symptoms like tinnitus, ringing in the ears, loss of smell, brain fog, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, these are a lot of the other symptoms that are also being experienced by the long haulers. And they had typified by those individuals who are not returning to normal health within two to three weeks of testing. And this has been experienced by a large group of people, in fact, up to a third of people.
So what, you might be asking. Well, the important thing to take away from not only the medical research but also this social media research, is that not all long haulers were hospitalized, meaning that even a mild infection with the SARS CoV-2 virus can lead to longterm health ramifications. Obviously, if you have preexisting chronic health problems, these are going to exacerbate the experience of COVID. And most of us know that diabetes and obesity, advanced age, and even being a man predispose you to potentially life-threatening response to infection with the SARS CoV-2 virus.
But those individuals who exemplify and demonstrate symptoms, such as chronic fatigue and even mold-sensitive patients, could definitely have the underlying set of inflammatory response that could be exacerbated by a further infection. And certainly, the scientific and medical research every day is demonstrating that co-infection with other microorganisms are, in fact, challenges for those individuals who end up being infected with the SARS COVID-2 virus.
So where do we go from here? Obviously, none of us want to be exposed to the SARS COVID-2 virus and go on to get COVID-19 infection or the disease. But if we do, we need to be mindful of the longterm health impacts, being a long COVID or a long hauler. What can we do? Well, obviously, mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing until effective treatments become available is what we need to focus on doing, and adjusting our behavior accordingly, because no one wants to become a long hauler.
In any case, I'm going to be following this exciting research area. But if you're already sick or suffering as a long hauler, well, why don't join one of these support groups online and follow the research? Check out this page over the coming weeks and months, because I'm going to be doing further live streams on what I think is a very important public health topic. In any case, stay well, see you next week. Bye for now.
An Analysis of Self-reported Longcovid Symptoms on Twitter
Shubh Mohan Singh, Chaitanya Reddy
medRxiv 2020.08.14.20175059; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.08.14.20175059
Long-term patient-reported symptoms of COVID-19: an analysis of social media data
Juan M. Banda, Gurdas Viguruji Singh, Osaid Alser, DANIEL PRIETO-ALHAMBRA
medRxiv 2020.07.29.20164418; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.29.20164418
Perrin R, Riste L, Hann M, Walther A, Mukherjee A, Heald A. Into the looking glass: Post-viral syndrome post COVID-19 [published online ahead of print, 2020 Jun 27]. Med Hypotheses. 2020;144:110055. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2020.110055
Basu, T. (2020). Covid-19 “long haulers” are organizing online to study themselves. Retrieved 23 August 2020, from https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/08/12/1006602/covid-19-long-haulers-are-organizing-online-to-study-themselves/
Assaf, G., Davis, H., McCorkell, L., Wei, H., O’Neil, B., & Akrami, A. et al. (2020). COVID-19 Prolonged Symptoms Survey - Analysis Report. Retrieved 23 August 2020, from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KmLkOArlJem-PArnBMbSp-S_E3OozD47UzvRG4qM5Yk/edit
Tenforde MW, Kim SS, Lindsell CJ, et al. Symptom Duration and Risk Factors for Delayed Return to Usual Health Among Outpatients with COVID-19 in a Multistate Health Care Systems Network — United States, March–June 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:993-998. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6930e1
Carfì A, Bernabei R, Landi F, for the Gemelli Against COVID-19 Post-Acute Care Study Group. Persistent Symptoms in Patients After Acute COVID-19. JAMA. 2020;324(6):603–605. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.12603