Doctors warn of pain, chronic fatigue as potential long COVID symptoms

NOW: Doctors warn of pain, chronic fatigue as potential long COVID symptoms

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- For much of the pandemic, doctors have warned about the potential long-term effects from COVID-19. Now two years into the pandemic and a new national report is warning about chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that could have harmful impacts for years to come.

Long after the COVID-19 virus leaves a patient's system, doctors say that person can have symptoms affecting their quality of life. The symptoms can affect the heart, lungs and brain.

"There's a whole array of symptoms that people can get, and some are more severe than others," said Dr. Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection control at UW Health.

Safdar said long COVID symptoms initially came as a surprise, but now it's clear more research is needed.

"I don't think this is the time to say that we know everything there is to know about this virus because we certainly don't," Safdar said.

The national report cites evidence showing one in 10 COVID-19 infections could lead to chronic fatigue syndrome, which can include symptoms like brain fog, pain and severe fatigue.

"We can't predict what group will or will not get long COVID. And we don't know enough about it to be able to say how to mitigate it and how to treat it. So there's no specific medical treatment for long COVID," Safdar said.

With that in mind, Safdar said prevention is better than treatment. She said the good news is vaccines will protect people from long COVID even if they have breakthrough infections.

"I think it's really the difference between avoiding a car accident versus trying to recover from one. You certainly can recover from it, but who wants to take that chance, right?" Safdar asked.

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