Dangers of COVID-19 are real

Arthur “Tony” Blain, MD, FAAFP

Dangers of COVID-19 are real

I am a family physician and have provided care to many COVID-19 patients over the last few months. Recently, a 47 year old female patient witha history of diabetes and COVID-19 pneumonia five weeks ago called me for a renewal of her disability paperwork since she gets severe shortness of breath walking 10 feet and has to sit down after walking up only half a flight of stairs. COVID-19 causes long-term severe symptoms in many patients; no one knows if they are permanent.

Capt. Jonathan Pryor is an acute care trauma surgeon in Los Angeles County and Navy Reserve physician. He deployed to New York City as part of the national COVID-19 response and ended up getting COVID-19 pneumonia. Several months later, he still gets extreme shortness of breath and exhaustion doing minimal activity and is still not able to return to work. He says he focuses on “walking around slowly, taking sloooooow deep breaths, remaining calm and focusing on not dying.”

COVID-19 is much different from the common cold, influenza or viral illnesses which usually resolve in 7-10 days. As many as a third of patients report several weeks to months of lingering symptoms, such as fatigue, headache, insomnia, chest pain, joint pains, dizziness, skin rashes, dry cough, low-grade fevers, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath and memory issues. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is known to cause an inflammatory reaction that can damage the lungs, heart, gut, kidneys, blood vessels, nervous system and brain.

Children are at particular risk for multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), a condition in which the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and gastrointestinal tract can become inflamed. Symptoms can include trouble breathing, chest pain, confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, bluish discoloration to lips or face, or severe abdominal pain. MIS-C can be deadly if left untreated. A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed cases among children in California were up 150 percent last month.

COVID-19 deaths continue to increase daily. Deaths in San Diego County as of early September were 734 (42,477 cases), California 14,333 (761,000 cases), United States 194,000 (6.5 million cases), and worldwide 917,000 (28.6 million cases), but experts feel worldwide numbers are grossly underestimated due to lack of available testing and political reasons.

Prevention of COVID-19 by wearing masks and social distancing is being increasingly ignored and is causing the increase in cases and deaths. Long-term consequences of COVID-19 are unknown, but fatigue, muscle and joint pains, “brain fog” or confusion, palpitations, dramatic mood swings and other symptoms are common for months.

Hospitalized for a case of “air hunger” months after his COVID-19 diagnosis, Capt. Pryor said, “I hope this ends soon …”

Dr. Blain is a board-certified Poway family physician and board member of the California Prostate Cancer Coalition with 24 years of medical experience, both in the community and with the military. He provides office and telemedicine care for COVID patients and all medical issues. He lives in Poway with his wife, four sons, two dogs, two cats and a Lion Head rabbit. When not coaching youth basketball, soccer and running, he runs ultra-marathons and enjoys open water swimming.

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