"This is pretty similar in some ways to people who have recovered form a serious, life-threatening pneumonia from another cause," said Dr. Lekshmi Santhosh, founder and physician faculty lead of the multidisciplinary post-COVID OPTIMAL Clinic at UCSF Health.
A large case study in Italy found that over 50% of patients experienced persistent symptoms even after most of the illness had passed.
The most common were fatigue, chest pain and shortness of breath.
"That kinda jives with our local experience where we see a lot of people who’ve recovered from the acute, sudden onset illness but are still left with these persistent symptoms," she said.
Just as doctors are working to figure out why some young, healthy patients will experience serious cases of COVID-19 or even death seemingly at random, it is also difficult to predict which patients may experience long-term symptoms.
"I’ve seen young and healthy people have really bad symptoms afterwards. I’ve also seen people recover from an Intensive Care Unit stay come to me in clinic and say, 'I don’t remember you but I’m feeling fine now,'" said Dr. Santhosh. "There’s a full spectrum of recovery ranging from a complete recovery to these long term persistent symptoms."
Dr. Santhosh said this is another reason for people to be cautious about contracting the virus and assume that everyone you come into contact with could be a carrier.