In addition to the burden and acute impact of the COVID-19 virus, there are complications that go beyond the period of acute infection. In some cases, individuals can experience symptoms three weeks or longer after symptoms first occur. This is referred to as post-acute COVID-19, long-term COVID, or long haulers (UC Davis Health, 2021). Approximately 10% of COVID-19-positive patients can experience new or ongoing symptoms for more than 12 weeks (Greenhalgh et al., 2020). At this time, there is no clear explanation as to why some individuals experience post-acute COVID-19 (UC Davis Health, 2021).
There is great variation in the symptoms that are experienced for those who have post-acute COVID-19, and these signs may come and go. The most common symptoms are cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, and low-grade fever. Other symptoms include headaches, difficulty thinking or concentrating, sleep disruption, dizziness, neuropathy, chest pain, heart palpitations, muscle pain and weakness, diarrhea, abdominal pain, change in smell or taste, and metabolic disruptions (such as diabetes control or menstruation changes), and rash. Additional symptoms include mood changes, depression, and other behavioral health conditions (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2021; Greenhalgh et al., 2020).
Testing for patients suspected of post-acute COVID-19 should be done based on the individualized clinical indications. Patients who are post-acute COVID-19 no longer test positive for the COVID-19 virus. Complete blood counts can be done to assess for anemia, leukocytosis, and lymphocytopenia. Another testing may include C-reactive protein, peptides, troponin, and D-dimer (Greenhalgh et al., 2020).
Management of post-acute COVID-19 is focused on treating individual symptoms. Rehabilitation may be needed in some circumstances, particularly with cardiac or respiratory needs. Behavioral health monitoring and resources may be very beneficial to post-acute COVID-19 patients. Prognosis is mainly positive for these patients but is dependent on the types of complications and morbidities (Greenhalgh et al., 2020).
Following recovery from COVID-19, some patients may continue to experience a variety of COVID-19-related symptoms. These patients, often referred to as long haulers, may experience symptoms up to 12 weeks post-acute COVID-19 infection.
For the most up-to-date information on the COVID-19 virus and the Delta variant please visit the Centers for Disease Control: COVID-19
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Post-COVID conditions.
Greenhalgh, T., Knight, M., Court, C., Buxton, M., & Husain L. (2020). Management of post-acute covid-19 in primary care. BMJ 2020, 370, m3026.
UC Davis Health. (2021). Long haulers: Why some people experience long-term coronavirus symptoms.