Although more than 80% of COVID-19 cases do not require medical intervention, the recovery process seems to vary according to self-reports that have started to appear over the last two months.
Some experience neuropathies, namely a tingling sensation, trembling, and general numbness. While others endure a lingering fatigue days after respiratory symptoms have subsided.
Data-driven research has since corroborated the anecdotes indexed above. Nearly three months since COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic by The World Health Organization, patients who were deemed to no longer be infected continue to test positively long after their clean bill of health.
A concerning portion of this same demographic even develops new symptoms after their initial ones are no longer present. The most common of which include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness/pain
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
Containment becomes tricky without knowing if the second wave of symptoms is representative of relapse or of successful viral clearance.
Currently, prodromes are the most reliable way for physicians to gauge an individual’s infectious potential.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends those who have contracted COVID-19 remain quarantined until their fever has broken at least 72 hours (three full days) prior without the help of clinical reducers.
Additionally, all other destructive symptoms (labored breathing, shortness of breath, and a persistent dry cough) have to be absent for at least seven days before self-isolation mandates can be breached.
In a strong field, viral shedding has proved to be one of the most challenging aspects of surveillance.
COVID-19 patients are the most contagious before symptoms appear or while they’re still asymptomatic. However, viral material can remain in the back of the throat and in nasal passages long after prodromes have abated.
“Active replication in the throat was confirmed by viral replicative RNA intermediates in throat samples. Sequence-distinct virus populations were consistently detected in throat and lung samples from the same patient, proving independent replication. Shedding of viral RNA from sputum outlasted the end of symptoms. Seroconversion occurred after 7 days in 50% of patients (14 days in all) but was not followed by a rapid decline in viral load. COVID-19 can present as a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Active virus replication in the upper respiratory tract puts the prospects of COVID-19 containment in perspective,” a new study published in the journal Nature reports.
The totality of the relevant data at our disposal suggests that we need to rethink the two-week threshold motioned by elected officials.
The duration of time individuals remain infectious might be related to case severity. WHO states, “for people with mild disease, recovery time is about two weeks, while people with severe or critical disease recover within three to six weeks.”
Those naive to the pathogen will not be prepared to fight it once it penetrates host cells. The nature of our body’s defense against any foreign agent depends on how much of it we’re exposed to and our own genetic background in addition to a number of lifestyle/dietary substrates. Read more about those here.
All of these elements fall under what is called The Adaptive Immune Response in epidemiology.
When researchers know beyond a reasonable doubt that a protective biological process is initiated after COVID-19’s reinfection, health care professionals can administer convalescent plasma to critically ill patients.
Unfortunately, the herd immunity theory is just that; a theory, a promising one but a theory all the same.
No matter how quickly researchers commit to confirming its utility only a more substantial number of recovered patients can eliminate lingering question marks.
Thirty percent of cleared cases do not test positive for antibodies. Moreover, the current tests meant to detect SARS-Cov-2 respond to living and dead traces of the virus alike.
Even if herd immunity operates exactly the way researchers hope, donating blood requires a list of conditions that will limit the available pool considerably, saying nothing of how draining the process is for otherwise healthy individuals.
“It is sometimes the case where if you have a strong reaction you might have immunity persist for longer but it might also be the case that those people are not able to respond to infections as easily,” Katrina Pollock, a senior clinical research fellow in vaccinology at the NIHR Clinical Research Facility at Imperial College London explained in a press statement. “Research is happening at the same time as the pandemic is unfolding and it is not possible to give people the information they want immediately”.