Physician Says COVID-19 Can Have Long-Lasting Impacts on the Healthiest Patients

Doctors are concerned about the long-term health impacts the coronavirus may have on people under 50 years old

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People under 50 years old who recover from the coronavirus could experience permanent health issues and spend the rest of their lives relying on inhalers or medication, a La Jolla physician warns.

Emergency room physician Dr. Shawn Evans works at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. Over the past few months, he has cared for several people with the virus and says people under 50 who are being hospitalized are usually waiting too long to go to the hospital.

"Staying at home works fine until you are vomiting for more than four hours, until you have so much exhaustion that you can't get up, or until someone can't walk a distance of 25 feet without shortness of breath," Dr. Evans explained. Evans said most people under 50 have a good survival rate even if they become critically ill, but the long term health ailments are what concern him.

Evans said recovering patients could be left with scar tissue buildup in the lungs, which require inhalers and medication for treatment, or worse.

Other people who have had significant injury or viremia sepsis, those folks end up with kidney injury or maybe even small heart attacks or even small strokes. So this is a very nasty virus.

Dr. Shawn Evans, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla

Symptoms for COVID-19 can present themselves very subtly. There have been some cases in which people don't feel out of breath, but when tested their oxygen levels are dangerously low, Evans said.

"It [the virus] actually fakes if you will, oxygen and because there is less oxygen being transported, it is very subtle in the early phases of the disease," Evans explained.

With the virus' fast spread and ease of contamination, there are concerns over what could happen to our healthcare system if a second wave of COVID-19 comes and we have the additional needs of recovered patients with long term health problems to address.

Ultimately in terms of function, it is still an unwritten script how many people with what types of ailments and over what period of time will require or even burden the healthcare system.

Dr. Shawn Evans

What has been the most shocking for Dr. Evans is seeing how many relatively healthy people under the age of 50 have needed hospitalization and to be put on ventilators. With this uncertainty, he does find a silver lining in the fact that we are better prepared today for an emergency than we were in the past.

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