Coronavirus culture has heavily focused on cases which are either asymptomatic or deadly— those who are living long-term with the virus are left out of the narrative.
Some people who contracted coronavirus in March report that they’ve been coping with symptoms for more than 60 days, leaving them unable to concentrate, exercise, or otherwise participate in activities they once enjoyed. According to a piece from The Atlantic, these people refer to themselves as “longhaulers” after being told by their doctors that they likely have coronavirus. But because they’ve been denied a test, many of them have to wait it out in limbo.
These symptoms interrupting their lives are intermittent, straining their ability to get back to work or care for children who are at home with schools closed. Many have shared their experiences in online forums, saying the virus feels “endless” and that friends and family are “skeptical” of their prolonged illness.
Despite the focus on the coronavirus’ effect on the respiratory system, such as coughing and possible lung damage, other symptoms include brain fog, hallucinations, and being unable to get out of bed. Even after testing negative, they’re still experiencing COVID-19 symptoms that place them firmly between the camps of people who experience the virus as a form of cold or flu and those who die from it.
Experts point out that this is similar to the after-effects of contracting Lyme disease, where people experience them intermittently. Pointing to the newness of the virus and a clear lack of knowledge, it’s unclear whether coronavirus has a definite expiration date on its symptoms.
Several people told Business Insider that the prolonged symptoms of coronavirus have left them unable to plan for life when they do recover. And health experts are saying CDC guidelines aren’t being updated frequently enough for them to really help their patients. For medical lead Dr. Nick Favini at Forward, a primary care practice which is collecting data across the country, the delayed return to normalcy is a clear and present issue.
“It’s hard to say what percent of people have symptoms that last beyond two weeks, but we’re definitely observing that as a not-uncommon phenomenon,” Navini told Business Insider. “The virus causes all kinds of inflammation and dysregulation in your body and it can take even longer, after you’ve cleared the virus, for all of those things to go back to normal.”