How long does it take to beat the COVID-19 virus? Even doctors play a guessing game

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Washington: How long can one expect COVID-19 illness to last? It all depends says doctors.  Most coronavirus patients have mild to moderate illness and recover quickly. Older, sicker COVID-19 patients tend to take longer to recover. That includes those who are obese, or have high blood pressure and other chronic diseases.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said recovery typically takes two to six weeks. One US study found that around 20 per cent of non-hospitalised individuals aged 18 to 34 still had symptoms at least two weeks after becoming ill. The same was true for nearly half of people age 50 and older.

Among those sick enough to be hospitalised, a study in Italy found 87 per cent were still experiencing symptoms two months after getting sick. Lingering symptoms included fatigue and shortness of breath.

Dr Khalilah Gates, a Chicago lung specialist, said many of her hospitalised COVID-19 patients still have coughing episodes. They still have breathing difficulties and fatigue three to four months after infection. She said it’s hard to predict exactly when COVID-19 patients will return to feeling well.

“The unsettling part of all this is we don’t have all the answers,” said Gates. She is an assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

It’s also hard to predict which patients will develop complications after their initial illness subsides. COVID-19 can affect nearly every organ. Long-term complications can include heart inflammation, decreased kidney function, fuzzy thinking, anxiety and depression.

It is unclear whether the virus itself or the inflammation it can cause leads to these lingering problems, said Dr Jay Varkey, an Emory University infectious diseases specialist. “Once you get over the acute illness, it’s not necessarily over,” he said.

Researchers are also of the opinion that recovered patients should not throw precautions to the wind. They said wearing of masks, maintaining social distance and handwash hygiene are procedures that must be followed. They have pointed out re-infections that have taken place in various cases.

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