The long road to recovery: Dealing with the lingering effects of COVID-19

The long road to recovery: Dealing with the lingering effects of COVID-19

BY THOMAS J. ERVIN, MD- Doctors across the world are still trying to understand the long-term implications of COVID-19 – what health effects may look like after recovery, what impacts may resolve and what medical issues may linger. This was the focus of the second “Back to Boca” Grande Rounds webinar, hosted by the Boca Grande Health Center Foundation, Health Network Foundation and the Boca Grande Health Clinic, held on Oct. 6. The featured presenter was Dr. Laurie Jacobs, Chair, Department of Medicine at Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey. This webinar is archived and can be viewed at bghcfoundation.com.

New Jersey has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As one of the state’s leaders in the treatment of COVID-19, Hackensack Meridian Health has cared for well over 12,000 patients battling this infection – more than any other health system in New Jersey. Through its experience in caring for these patients, Hackensack Meridian Health has developed the state’s first and only COVID-19 Recovery Center to provide a comprehensive post-COVID evaluation, along with support and treatment.

Dr. Jacobs reviewed the symptoms of acute COVID-19 infection and the symptoms and time course of both rapid (less than eight weeks) and prolonged (greater than 12 weeks) recovery from the disease.  

The take-home points presented included:

1. COVID-19 is not just another “flu.” Recovery within eight weeks from illness is, by far, the most common individual outcome of the disease. The potential for serious illness including death, and the possibility of a prolonged convalescent phase are real and must be recognized. 

2. Extensive medical evaluation for those hit the hardest. For the minority of patients experiencing prolonged convalescent symptoms, treatment, including early mobilization, cardiac and pulmonary monitoring, and comprehensive evaluation including general medical review by physicians with experience treating COVID-19 patients is recommended.

3. New treatment centers. Comprehensive treatment centers such as the program at Hackensack Meridian Health are being developed regionally to cope with the various symptoms and medical conditions associated with COVID-19 infection.

4. There’s reason for hope. Treatments being developed, including monoclonal antibodies, antiviral agents, and improved supportive hospital care will improve patient outcome in the future.

The lecture reminded us that lifestyle choices, including frequent hand washing, distancing, the regular use of face coverings when indoors or in crowds, and the avoidance of large crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, will continue for some time to come. Early relief from COVID-19 is unlikely and herd immunity is not viable without an effective vaccine. And, finally, we must all be patient, learn to trust one another to do the right thing for all, and support our scientific and political leaders (your choice here) to lead the country forward.

“Back to Boca” is a four-part free webinar series to provide sound facts about COVID-19, including recommendations for safe travel and safe living on island this season. Recordings of all webinars in the series can be found at bghcfoundation.com/webinar-series/.

Dr. Thomas Ervin is a physician at the Boca Grande Health Clinic.