Covid-19 – The Symptoms, the Science, and the Truth

“I’ve had lots of contact with people who are really destroyed by this. They never expected it to be a long term chronic problem.” (Tim Spector, Epidemiologist, Kings College London)

Personally, I don’t feel I can trust England’s government to either know the truth behind Covid-19 or, if they know it, to tell me it! The same goes for the media. They can’t be trusted to tell the truth either. What’s a girl to do?

Without knowing exactly what’s what, it is impossible to make good decisions about our own safety and the safety of the people we love. So I’ve trawled through a few recent editions of New Scientist magazine and pulled out a load of current truths for you.

The strange symptoms of the novel coronavirus

Here’s a list of the symptoms medical experts around the world are seeing in people who have caught the virus, many of which carry on for weeks or months after recovery:

  • Chest pains
  • Severe fatigue, very like the exhaustion you feel with Dengue fever or ME
  • Chronic headaches
  • Itching all over your body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness in the arms
  • Bloating
  • Lost or damaged sense of taste, smell, or both
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Tingling fingertips
  • Brain fog
  • Skin problems (in as many as 10% of patients)
  • A flat red rash, or a red-purple rash caused by tiny blood clots under the skin
  • Blisters around the mouth, like Chicken Pox but not itchy
  • Blisters on the body
  • Chilblain-like lesions on the toes
  • Acute muscle pain, much worse than flu
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness and seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • ‘Unusual’ heart attacks and strokes in younger patients, affecting multiple different areas of the brain
  • Brain and nerve damage caused by the hyper-intense inflammatory reaction commonly found in severe cases
  • Permanent lung damage in as many as 1 in 5 intensive care patients
  • Persistent altered gut bacteria, where you have unusually large numbers of harmful bacteria and fewer beneficial ones
  • Persistent inflammation after recovery
  • Depression, anxiety and insomnia after recovery

The virus also ‘disproportionally kills people from poor and ethnic minority backgrounds and also men, for reasons that still aren’t fully understood’.

Quotes from medical experts

Just in case you thought the people suffering these odd symptoms are malingerers or hypochondriacs:

“There’s clearly something going on here. It is not their imagination or hypochondria. It doesn’t even seem to be linked to how severely they had the disease, as far as I can see.” (Danny Altmann, Immunologist, Imperial College London)

The way the disease can come back and bite you on the backside:

“The weird thing with Covid-19 is how it sort of goes away, and you feel a bit muggy and little bit drained, then you feel a bit better and, whack, it comes at you again from a different direction.” (Paul Garner, Professor of Infectious Diseases, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine)

On inflammation and brain health:

“People who get infected with this new virus often have this hyper-intense inflammatory reaction and being in such an inflamed state will have an impact on brain health.” (Ed Bullmore, Neuroscientist, University of Cambridge)

On the varied symptoms:

“Hardly anyone’s symptoms are the same the whole way through, and we think we are actually seeing six different sub-types of disease, based on the groupings of symptoms and their timings.” (Tim Spector, Epidemiologist, Kings College London)

How the idea of herd immunity is ‘scientifically illiterate’

Herd immunity isn’t an option. In New Scientist’s words:

“That this was ever on the table beggars belief. Without knowing whether natural immunity exists, positing herd immunity as an exit strategy is scientifically illiterate.

Even now, natural herd immunity is for the birds. The levels of infection required would kill millions and devastate health services. But herd immunity does remain a way out, if it is artificially created by vaccination.”

Also on herd immunity, as reported by the science journalist Graham Lawton, “There is no straight ethical path to reach this goal, as the societal consequences of achieving (herd immunity) are devastating.”

The latest news about Covid-19 immunity

There’s some ‘promising’ evidence that we can develop some sort of natural immunity to the virus. But so far it looks like people who survive a serious case of Covid-19 may enjoy a longer immune response after recovery than people who suffered a mild case.

  • 90% of those with a severe case have usefully high levels of antibodies 2 months later, which means they’re better protected by their own antibodies than people who have a mild case or are asymptomatic
  • 40% of those who are asymptomatic have normal levels of antibodies after two months, which means they’re not protected by their own immune system for very long
  • 60% of people who catch the virus have declining levels of antibodies three months after they recover, meaning they’re naturally protected for a bit longer than asymptomatic people but not as well as those who’ve recovered from a serious case

Can you catch Covid-19 more than once?

It looks like there isn’t a risk of immediate reinfection despite inaccurate early reports that some people had caught the virus twice in quick succession. As for being re-infected later down the line, nobody knows… yet.

What about a vaccination?

The chances of developing a vaccine any time soon are, according to the experts, low. It’s usually a long, difficult process full of set-backs. But the fact that we develop an immune response to the virus makes a vaccine a little more likely.

Come back for more facts

Now you’ve got the facts, you can make better decisions. I’ll be back with more facts from the science community as they arise.

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