COVID-19 recovery: how are people after an illness

COVID-19 recovery: how are people after an illness

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How affected people are according to COVID-19

The reporting of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is characterized by infection numbers and deaths. However, the vast majority of those affected survive the disease unscathed. How are people who have had severe COVID-19 disease behind them? Are consequential damages known?

Tens of millions of people worldwide have survived an infection with the corona virus. The number of unreported cases is considered high, also because SARS-CoV-2 often causes little or no symptoms. However, if the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus takes a more severe course, the patients often have not yet fully recovered after weeks. Are there likely to be lifelong long-term consequences?

Overall, little is known about the late and long-term consequences of a corona infection, says Peter Berlit, General Secretary of the German Society for Neurology. Initial knowledge about possible neurological consequences had only been gathered in the past few weeks. "They weren't known before, because the disease is still young." As the pandemic progresses, researchers are finding out more and more about the course of the disease and the consequential damage in those affected by Covid 19. Patterns and relationships become recognizable. Here is an overview:

Sufferers with a mild course without hospitalization

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the proportion of mild cases to be around 80 percent of all cases. For those infected who notice something of the virus, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), cough (49 percent) and fever (41 percent) are the most common symptoms - similar to a flu infection.

"The patients we spoke to reported that the symptoms were sometimes very severe," says Matthias Kochanek, senior physician at Cologne University Hospital. They would have lasted for over ten to 21 days. "In many patients, the duration felt longer than is known from normal flu, for example," says the intensive care doctor. However, this value cannot yet be regarded as secured.

It is known that many sufferers quickly feel fit again after a mild course of infection. "Most of the patients also reported to us afterwards that they were completely resilient again," said Kochanek. The recovery also depends on the individual case and possible concomitant diseases.

Neurological symptoms

Little is known so far about the changes in taste and smell that some of the sufferers noticed even with mild courses. "Observational studies show that this problem will regress in the majority of patients in two to three weeks," says neurologist Berlit. In about five to ten percent of cases, the disorder persists longer.

According to an analysis in which the Dresden University Hospital is involved, it could be a misinterpretation that many sufferers reportedly report changes in taste perception in parallel to olfactory disorders. Most of the respondents can therefore more or less reliably differentiate between the four flavors sweet, sour, bitter and salty - but not flavors that require an interaction with the sense of smell.

Affected with severe disease without ventilation

According to the WHO, around 20 percent of corona infections are so severe that inpatient treatment is necessary. The treatment differs depending on the course of the disease. Some need oxygen because of shortness of breath, but can be treated in a normal ward. "These patients have roughly the same course as the patients with a mild course," explains intensive care doctor Kochanek. "Sometimes you just need a little longer to recover."

Others get a little more serious and need a little more oxygen - for example, through a small plastic tube under the nose. Compared to a mild course, those affected would need significantly longer, about three to four weeks, to be really fit again, says Kochanek. "After these patients left the hospital, they told us that they still felt tired and tired and not as efficient for a long time."

Intensive care patients with severe disease and ventilation

If the lung function of COVID-19 patients is so severely restricted that such a supply of oxygen is no longer sufficient with increasing difficulty in breathing, they are transferred to the intensive care unit, put into an artificial coma and receive ventilation via a tube in the trachea. Such intubation carries risks.

For example, lifting ventilation is a difficult process - the longer it lasts, the more the muscles needed to breathe are reduced, among other things. With older people in particular, it is difficult to rebuild them to their previous state. The lungs are also sensitive to excess pressure and to the oxygen that is added to the ventilation air. Lung tissue can be irreparably damaged. Artificial ventilation can also damage other organs.

In addition to the viral disease, the tubes can also cause a bacterial infection in the lungs. Almost all COVID-19 sufferers at Cologne University Hospital have such a second or even third pneumonia-induced pneumonia, reports Kochanek.

Long-term consequences of pneumonia

According to experts, no reliable statements can yet be made about the long-term consequences of such pneumonia. With more severe courses, such as severe lung failure and long ventilation, residual symptoms such as a reduced lung volume can be expected, says the doctor Sven Brille from the Vivantes Clinic in Neukölln.

A pattern can be seen, says Kochanek: Severely ill COVID-19 sufferers would need much longer to recover compared to those with other forms of pneumonia. One of his first patients, 80 years old, was only recently discharged into a rehabilitation clinic. She came to the clinic about three weeks after Carnival - in mid-March.

Damage to the brain

Some patients also experience severe neurological diseases - so-called encephalopathies, i.e. damage to the brain. "This is expressed in restlessness and confusion, and memory performance can also be impaired," explains Berlit. There is also a lack of long-term knowledge. However, it is to be feared that such restrictions could remain for a long time.

Thrombosis and strokes

Another risk is the long-term consequences of strokes, which according to Berlit are not only observed frequently in COVID-19 sufferers due to a higher propensity to thrombosis. Which symptoms remain depends primarily on the affected area of ​​the brain. The consequences of epileptic seizures, which were observed in connection with a cytokine storm, an immune response to the corona infection, were also unclear. Can epilepsy be a permanent consequence of the infection? "It's conceivable, but we don't know yet," says Berlit. (vb; source: Lennart Stock, dpa)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • RKI: Current situation report of the RKI on COVID-19 (03.06.2020),

Video: COVID-19: What to Expect When Youre Recovering (May 2022).


  1. Killdaire

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  2. Henry

    cool take interesting!

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