Nov 13, 2020 - Health

The possible long-lasting effects of COVID-19

a woman staring at covid
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Recovering from the coronavirus does not necessarily mean you'll bounce back to your old, pre-infection self: Most people who survived a severe infection were still dealing with some combination of physical, emotional and financial pain weeks later.

Driving the news: That's the conclusion from researchers who tracked more than 1,600 people who were hospitalized for coronavirus infections in Michigan. Their findings were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

By the numbers: Roughly 24% of those 1,600 patients died in the hospital. Another 6% died within 60 days of being discharged.

  • Researchers were able to track down 488 survivors to see how they were doing 60 days after getting out of the hospital. Roughly a third of those patients were experiencing symptoms such as a cough or long-term loss of taste and smell.
  • Roughly half said their health had affected their emotional well-being, and about 36% said their illness had been a financial setback.

Getting back to work was also a struggle: Among patients who were employed before they got sick, 40% said they had lost their jobs or couldn't go back for health reasons.

  • And a quarter of those who did return to work said their hours had been cut or their responsibilities modified.

Why it matters: The coronavirus can wreak havoc on your health and your life even if it doesn't kill you — which also means that looking only at the death rate is not a good way to take the full measure of this pandemic.

  • Coronavirus hospitalizations are surging right now, all across the country.

The bottom line: The best way to minimize the number of people who suffer these long-term effects would be to minimize the number of people who have the coronavirus — which the U.S. is not doing.

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