Because the coronavirus is a new virus, scientists are still learning so much about it, including how long it takes patients to recover after getting COVID-19.
In a report released on July 24, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 35% of all patients interviewed had not returned to their normal state of health within 2-3 weeks after testing positive. When looking at only patients between the ages of 18-35: more than one in five younger COVID-19 patients who were previously healthy had not returned to their baseline health.
This lasting toll affected even those who were not hospitalized for their symptoms.
“COVID-19 can result in prolonged illness, even among young adults without underlying chronic medical conditions,” the report summarized. “Effective public health messaging targeting these groups is warranted.”
In contrast, the CDC reports that more than 90% of outpatients with influenza recover within approximately two weeks of testing positive.
The CDC was not able to interview a large pool of patients. Researchers conducted telephone interviews with just 292 COVID-19 patients from April 15-June 25. It initially reached out to 582 patients.
Here is the breakdown for outpatients still experiencing COVID-19 symptoms 14-21 days after testing positive: 26% of the individuals aged 18–34 years, 32% of those 35–49 years old, and 47% of those 50 years or older.
The CDC found that patients were primarily still suffering from coughing (43%), fatigue (35%), or shortness of breath (29%) into the third and fourth weeks after getting tested.
Kate Porter, a COVID-19 patient, told NBC News the report is “monumental” for those who have suffered from symptoms long after testing positive. Porter tested positive on March 17, and even four months later, she continues to suffer from “low-grade fevers, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and memory and sleep issues.”
“This report is monumental for all of us who have been struggling with fear of the unknown, lack of recognition and many times, a lack of belief and proper care from medical professionals during our prolonged recovery from COVID-19,” Porter said. “This gives me hope that we will gain access to more resources throughout our recovery and hopefully, get our lives back to what they once were.”
The CDC says this proves that preventative measures, including handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing, are as necessary as ever to protect the general population from getting sick.