LONDON: As many as one in three patients who recover from COVID-19 could suffer from long-term damage to the lungs or brain, as well as chronic fatigue and psychological issues, research suggests.
Experts from Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) said there is growing evidence that the virus causes persistent, or in some cases permanent, damage to the body after recovery.
NHS England guidance reported by the Daily Telegraph newspaper indicates that the lungs of as many as 30 percent of patients may be damaged or scarred if COVID-19 follows the same pattern as similar diseases such as SARS and MERS.
The guidance also said COVID-19 may cause permanent damage to the brain in a quarter of patients who suffer respiratory distress, causing a heightened risk of Alzheimer’s disease and prolonged chronic fatigue.
Dr. Hilary Floyd, clinical director at the NHS Seacole Centre for COVID-19 recovery, said she is worried about how little is known about the long-term consequences of the virus, and she has been shocked by its lasting impacts on younger people.
“We have a couple of patients in their 40s at the moment; we really didn’t expect that,” she said. “These are people who were independent, they might be running their own business, going to the gym, swimming, active — now they’re at the point they can’t get out of bed.”
Some survivors, Floyd said, “may always have some level of debilitation.” In addition to the persistent physical impact of the virus, many patients will also suffer lasting psychological damage.
Dr. Janet Scott, a virus expert at the University of Glasgow-MRC Centre for Virus Research, warned of “post-traumatic stress, anxiety or depression” caused by the physical impact of the virus.
Both Scott and Floyd warned that there remains a serious lack of clarity on the scale of long-term physical and mental complications caused by the disease.