Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

New study says coronavirus can linger for weeks, and symptoms can last even longer

Published Sep 2nd, 2020 10:15PM EDT
Coronavirus Symptoms
Image: JHDT Productions/Adobe

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

  • Several studies have shown that coronavirus symptoms can linger for weeks after the virus is gone, and doctors can’t explain what leads to the so-called “long COVID” experience.
  • A new paper indicates that some patients might need a few extra weeks to get rid of the virus on top of the ten days the CDC advises.
  • The research also shows that some PCR tests return false-negative results, and some infected people might spread the virus even after they’ve been told they don’t have it.

Only a small percentage of the people who are infected with the novel coronavirus risk life-threatening complications and death. As of Wednesday morning, that figure sits at over 867,000 deaths worldwide out of more than 26 million confirmed cases. That’s a fatality rate of 3.33%, but that’s not the real mortality rate. Scientists believe that the number of people who are infected exceeds the number of confirmed cases significantly.

A recent estimate from the US CDC said that 10 times more Americans might be infected than what the figures show. A similar immunity study from Spain reached similar conclusions. Were we to apply the same assessment to the world’s population, then as many as a quarter-billion people would have already had the virus. That mortality rate would go down to 0.33% in such a scenario. Regardless of what the true mortality rate ends up being, not all of the people who are said to have recovered after testing negative twice in a row for coronavirus have actually recovered. We’ve heard time and again that COVID-19 symptoms can linger for months, even after the virus disappears from the system. A new report further reinforces the idea that some people will take a significant amount of time to get better, and they will need several extra weeks before they start testing negative.

The phenomenon isn’t fully understood, although doctors are aware of what’s happening with a set of patients. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci acknowledged the issue a few days ago, which some informally call “long COVID.”

“We’d better be careful when we say ‘Young people who don’t wind up in the hospital are fine, let them get infected, it’s OK.’ No, it’s not OK,” Fauci explained during a briefing a few days ago. “In individuals who are young and otherwise healthy,” Fauci added, “who don’t require hospitalization but do get sick and symptomatic enough to be in bed for a week or two or three and then get better, they clear the virus – they have residual symptoms for weeks and sometimes months.”

Researchers from Great Britain have been studying groups of people who exhibit long COVID symptoms. CNN cites a different study that was published in the British Medical Journal that describes the same COVID-19 complications with an unusual twist. The virus may need a longer time to be cleared from the body.

Some patients may need to wait over a month before being retested to know that they have cleared the virus. Also disturbing is the finding that one in five negative tests are false negatives, according to the researchers. That suggests some people might spread the illness without knowing it, after testing negative.

A study from the early days of the pandemic showed that one patient in China tested positive for almost 50 days, which was a record at a time. Similar cases have been observed since then.

The most recent version of the CDC coronavirus guidelines says that people can return to work or school 10 days after the onset of symptoms.

The study also mentions the long COVID symptoms that persist even after negative tests are eventually obtained. Body aches, the loss of smell, “brain fog,” and affected mood can last for months, the study says, according to CNN. The report doesn’t provide additional statistics for the patients who are likely to exhibit COVID-19 symptoms for months.

As with any other illness, nobody can predict the course of COVID-19. While young people and those who don’t have other medical conditions may experience a mild version of the disease, there are no guarantees. Death is still a risk for these groups, and long COVID can affect anyone.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.