TUCSON, Ariz. — While most people with the coronavirus recover, some patients could have symptoms that could last for weeks or even months after recovery.
"The COVID-19 virus specifically interferes at a cellular level in the lung tissue with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide," says Dr. Andrea Herbert, E.R. Medical Director, St. Mary's Hospital. "So that interference causes shortness of breath. If it's severe it'll cause significant inflammation and make fluid extra fluid in the lungs that really interfere with oxygen exchange."
Doctors say healthy people who get COVID recover in about two weeks, but if your case is severe, it may take three to six weeks or longer until you feel better.
"Those are patients that are definitely more predisposed to have long-lasting lung damage the longer they're hospitalized," says Herbert. "Certainly if they have to go on a ventilator, and they recover, they're more likely to have long-standing lung problems afterward, potentially long term home oxygen support."
Since COVID-19 is a novel virus, medical professionals still have many questions themselves. So when we asked about any permanent damage once a patient recovers…
"That’s being investigated right now, currently," says Herbert.
Doctors say patients who come to the E.R. with mild to moderate symptoms may be sent home on oxygen to help get the lungs stronger. But as of right now, the only FDA approved treatment is something called Remdesivir. And you have to be hospitalized in order to qualify.
"It's an antiviral medication that is really trying to attack the COVID-19 virus and slow down the replication. It works best within the initial seven days," says Herbert.
Since there’s still so much research to be done, the best way to prevent long-term effects is to prevent COVID-19 itself. Wear your mask, wash your hands and keep six feet apart from others.
This story was originally published by Mark Charter at KGUN in Tucson, Arizona.