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“Not just a virus that kills people”—WHO spotlights long-term COVID-19

Enlarge / A patient receives oxygen inside the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Covid-19 tent at the Ana Francisca Perez de Leon II hospital in Caracas, Venezuela, on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

A significant number of people infected with the pandemic coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, are experiencing long-term symptoms and taking many weeks or months to fully recover, the World Health Organization emphasized in a press conference today.

“I have heard first hand from people who face mid- to long-term effects of COVID-19 infection,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “What’s really concerning is the vast spectrum of symptoms that fluctuate over time, often overlap, and can affect any system in the body.”

While there have long been reports of COVID-19 long-haulers, the WHO worked to raise awareness of the problem today. It’s still unclear what proportion of infected people go on to have mid- to long-term health problems, Tedros noted. But, it’s clear that “this is not just a virus that kills people.” And with more than 45 million cases globally—and counting—even a small percentage will mean a large number of people will have long-term disability.

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