ON “60 MINUTES” SUNDAY: THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHO TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID-19 ARE EXPERIENCING STRANGE AND DEBILITATING SYMPTOMS DOCTORS DON’T YET UNDERSTAND
Sadie Nagamootoo Still Has Debilitating Symptoms
Doctors Warn It Could Present a Problem for the Health Care System
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There are days when Sadie Nagamootoo just can’t get out of bed. She says the migraines, weakness and fatigue can be too daunting. Nitza Rochez says she too feels sick – she’s experienced “headache, dizziness, blurry vision, double vision, heavy limbs” and something else being referred to as “COVID brain fog.” Rochez describes it as “an odd sensation…kind of like a disconnect, a cloudiness to my head.” Both women are in their forties and were healthy and athletic before contracting the novel Coronavirus last March. They expected to return to normal, but eight months later, they still haven’t. There are thousands more like them say doctors, who have not yet found an exact cause for the debilitating symptoms. Anderson Cooper reports on this disturbing aspect of the pandemic on the next edition of 60 MINUTES Sunday, Nov. 22 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City created one of the first places dedicated to treating and studying these patients, called the Center for Post-COVID Care. There are forty doctors working with the Center – many of them specialists – who are focused on treating the symptoms as best they can and studying the cause behind them. Doctors there are calling this long-term illness “Post-acute COVID Syndrome,” but, patients who have it are referring to themselves as “Long Haulers.” Dr. Dayna McCarthy, a rehab specialist at Mt. Sinai, is one of them. She says she had a mild case of COVID initially, but several months later is still dealing with fatigue and headaches. “There’s thousands and thousands of people who are going through this. The numbers are enormous,” says Dr. McCarthy. “And that’s why it’s so impactful,” she tells Cooper.
“The average age of patients who are feeling this Post-acute COVID Syndrome are twenties to forties. They were relatively healthy before,” says Dr. McCarthy. She says this pool of patients could become a worrisome drain on health care systems, which are already overwhelmed by the pandemic. “The burden of care for the health care system that now has young patients…Who if we don’t do something now to try to get them better, can have a chronic-type illness that then requires consistent and persistent money and care.”
Up to 85% of the 1000 patients the Center for Post-COVID Care has seen so far show no clear cause for their symptoms. Doctors are now racing to try to figure out why. Mt. Sinai is studying commonalities among patients it has seen, and enrolling patients in a high-resolution imaging study to scan the hearts, lungs and brains of so-called long haulers to determine damage the virus may have caused.
Dr. Zijian Chen heads up the center at Mt. Sinai. It’s a mystery, he says, and compares this pool of patients to those who suffered illnesses from the fallout after 9/11. “This virus has many different effects on the human body…a kind of catastrophic event at one time that causes a large group of special patients…In a way, this is very similar to 9/11, but on a much grander scale,” Dr. Chen tells Cooper.
It could take months or years before doctors figure out precisely what’s causing this. One question doctors and researchers are looking into is whether the immune system might be contributing to some of these symptoms. Some patients’ illnesses are being compounded by feelings of anxiety or depression. Asked by Cooper whether the symptoms could be purely psychological, Dr. McCarthy, replies, “I have to [believe these patients]. Because I feel those symptoms too. And I don’t think it’s all in my head.”
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