UT Health Austin researchers are studying long-haul COVID patients to better understand the symptoms that linger long after coronavirus has gone particularly lung function. One result of this study—they have learned that about a third of patients who were hospitalized and needed oxygen had some level of lung scarring and tissue damage making it tougher to breathe. That number jumps to almost two-thirds if those patients were in ICU and needed a ventilator.
Severe diagnosis can lead to lung damage
In a news report on KXAN, Manish M. Naik, MD, Chief Medical Officer at ARC added that a lot depends on the underlying health of the patient. "Someone who's young and healthy, even with a severe case, often there is recovery of lung function over a period of several months," said Dr. Naik. "Somebody who's older and has less reserve, they may not recover as much." He explained the more severe the COVID diagnosis the more scarring in the lungs.
"COVID is not just an infection in the lungs, but it creates severe inflammation in the lungs in those severe cases and inflammation can lead to scarring," said Dr. Naik. "And so, some individuals even after recovering from COVID, have some of that inflammation and scarring, which can take months to recover from."
Dr. Naik explained that the long-term impacts are even more concerning now with a spike in cases. He said ARC had a positivity rate of 2% about three weeks ago and now they're up to 13% positivity for COVID tests his staff is running. "It appears to be a combination of mostly folks that are unvaccinated that are becoming positive and now we have this more transmissible Delta variant," explained Dr. Naik. "That's part of the mix as well and that's leading to a higher transmission rate."
It's not too late to vaccinate
In a second KXAN news story, it was reported that more than 99.99% of fully-vaccinated people in America have not had a severe breakthrough case of COVID-19: meaning they were not hospitalized and did not die from the virus. The CDC defines a "breakthrough case" as a COVID-19 infection detected in a person's sample that was collected 14 days or more after they completed their vaccination(s) with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-emergency authorized vaccine.
Dr. Naik told KXAN last month they're seeing less severe coronavirus symptoms or no symptoms at all in breakthrough cases.
"A lot of the cases we are picking up are actually in people with no symptoms, who are getting testing for things like travel or going to a camp or that kind of a scenario," said Dr. Naik last month. "And others are having mild or cold-like symptoms. There are occasional cases where people get more sick, even if they've been fully vaccinated. But those are unusual and much less common."
If you would like to get a vaccination, visit ARC's COVID vaccine page to schedule an appointment.