SAN ANTONIO – As we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel on new coronavirus infections, doctors in San Antonio are beginning to question if there will be more complications later.
A recovery from COVID-19 may not a full one as doctors see seeing more lingering effects of the virus with each passing day. In other words, this is not like the regular flu.
“We don’t know yet what’s going to happen down the road. Just because we’re still understanding this disease, we’re still understanding what’s going to be the outcomes," said Dr. Diego Maselli, University Hospital medical director of respiratory care.
One of those outcomes Maselli knows for sure is the result of a tracheotomy that is often performed to help struggling COVID-19 patients breathe.
“That liberates the ventilator, but as you may imagine, it also leaves an opening that will need to heal as well,” he said.
But in severe cases, the list of potential aftereffects goes much deeper, according to reports out of Europe, which is weeks ahead of the United States. Doctors are documenting that previously healthy people are walking away with new heart disease, lung disease, kidney problems, blood clots, loss of taste and a continued shortness of breath.
“Patients actually are left with scarring on the lungs and with persistence of shortness of breath. This is just because the inflammation of coronavirus was so intense that it left scarring in the lung and that kind of lung injury,” Maselli said.
San Antonio is only about 45 days into COVID-19 infection care, so local patients are only just beginning to see what life is like after infection. There is concern that when cold and flu season arrives in the fall, former coronavirus patients will have weakened immune systems and a new predisposition to acquire complications from viruses.
COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March. The first case confirmed in the U.S. was in mid-January and the first case confirmed in San Antonio was in mid-February.
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