According to John’s Hopkins, for every 55 people that die of COVID-19 in the U.S., there are just about 100,000 survivors. For those survivors, dealing with the aftermath could be worse than dealing with the virus itself.
“I think the virus is a clever one and a tricky one so it’s interesting, every day we are learning more things about the virus," Chelsea Yager, a neurohospitalist with the department of neurology at St. Joseph's Health said.
Yager and Dr. Fahed Saada are neurohospitalists at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Syracuse. Since the start of the pandemic, they’ve been researching what happens during and after patients get the virus.
“So post-COVID complications, most likely the neurological complications include fatigue, dizziness, some patients have described a ‘brain fog’ for a period of time," Saada said.
“Some other common symptoms are headache, dizziness, some patients can have issues with chronic fatigue," Yager said.
In New York alone, there have been over 437,000 confirmed cases.
“About 36 percent of people who develop COVID-19 will develop some sort of long-term neurological consequence. The most common one is anosmia, which is a loss of taste and smell," Yager said.
The loss of taste and smell is also a common symptom of COVID-19 in general. Those are just the neurological complications that those recovering should be conscious of.
“There are a spectrum of other non-neurological complications that include respiratory problems like shortness of breath and of course clotting problems that can take place during the acute phase of the infection," Saada says.
“Usually people develop strokes about 16 days after which is the medium time frame that people are developing strokes after having an infection with COVID-19," Yager said.
The rate of post-COVID-19 stroke is about 1.6 percent, so it’s not tremendously common. But, there has been an uptick in younger survivors suffering strokes.
“Hospitals in New York reported that younger patients, that are between the ages of 30 to 60 years of age were coming in with quite devastating strokes, and these patients did not have any risk factors for stroke," Saada said.
“It’s surprising to see that this is affecting people that don’t necessarily have risk factors. Research is being done right now to identify how we can predict who those people may be that may have this adverse reaction of inflammation as a result from COVID," Yager said.
A majority of patients who suffer strokes from COVID-19 do have the general risk factors for strokes like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Saada and Yager both have advice for anyone who presents stroke symptoms.
“Anybody, COVID or non-COVID, if you develop any neurological symptoms, slurred speech, facial asymmetry or droopiness of the face, visual problems, the worst headache of your life, weakness, numbness, you ought to seek medical attention immediately. Call 911. Get to the nearest hospital,” Saada said.
The best way to prevent COVID-19 complications is to avoid getting the virus altogether. For now, the best way to do that is to continue to social distance, wear masks, and wash your hands.