For all you’ve heard about the coronavirus, so much is still unknown—including why some of us experience certain unusual symptoms while others don’t. Certain issues like shortness of breath and fever are explainable—the virus attacks the respiratory system—but others have left doctors scratching their heads on their way to the research lab. Here are the latest symptoms they can’t explain—yet. If you know someone affected, share it with them so they know they’re not alone.
Initial reports claimed the coronavirus was mild for most people, lasting no more than two weeks, barring any serious complications. However, reports are now coming out on NBC News and ABC News from American patients who have tested negative for the virus—but are still experiencing chest pains, body aches, fatigue and even fevers for weeks and weeks. “Were still learning about this virus in real time,” said one leading pulmonologist from New York City.
“One of the great mysteries of the new coronavirus is why it causes only mild disease in most people, but turns fatal for others,” reports WebMD. “In many cases, it seems the worst damage may be driven by a deranged immune response to the infection, rather than the virus itself. In many of the sickest patients with COVID-19, their blood is teeming with high levels of immune system proteins called cytokines. Scientists believe these cytokines are evidence of an immune response called a cytokine storm, where the body starts to attack its own cells and tissues rather than just fighting off the virus.”
As states reopen, models suggest death rates will increase in some parts. What’s mystifying: Even non-COVID-related deaths are increasing in many regions, without explanation. In the UK, for example, “every week as the coronavirus outbreak continues, hundreds, and now thousands, more people are dying than we would normally expect in normal times,” reports the New Statesman. “The death rate in the UK is now at its highest for more than 20 years.”
“Almost half the people hospitalized because of COVID-19 have blood or protein in their urine, indicating early damage to their kidneys, said Alan Kliger, a nephrologist at the Yale School of Medicine who co-chairs a task force assisting dialysis patients who have COVID-19,” according to the Washington Post. If you’ve had previous issues with your kidneys before, contact your medical professional if you think you’ve contacted COVID-19.
Podiatrists are getting more and more calls about red and rashy toes and chilblains, purple lesions. “The lesions are emerging as yet another telltale symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. The most prominent signs are a dry cough and shortness of breath, but the virus has been linked to a string of unusual and diverse effects, like mental confusion and a diminished sense of smell,” reports the New York Times. “Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.”
The World Health Organization is “urgently” investigating a possible link between the virus and Kawasaki syndrome, an illness of unknown cause that primarily affects children under 5. According to the WHO, 20 children in Europe, 10 of whom tested positive for COVID-19, were showing symptoms of the syndrome—and 15 New York children, many of whom had coronavirus, were hospitalized with similar symptoms, which include “fever, rash, swelling of the hands and feet, irritation and redness of the whites of the eyes, swollen lymph glands in the neck, and irritation and inflammation of the mouth, lips, and throat,” according to the CDC.
The brain scans of certain COVID-19 patients are showing “abnormal swelling and inflammation in several regions, with smaller areas where some cells had died,” reports the New York Times. This has led to “confusion, stroke and seizures in a small subset of COVID-19 patients.”
“The pattern of involvement, and the way that it rapidly progressed over days, is consistent with viral inflammation of the brain,” Dr. Elissa Fory, a neurologist with Henry Ford Health System, told the paper. “This may indicate the virus can invade the brain directly in rare circumstances.”
If you are experiencing anything in this story, contact your medical professional immediately. They can try to help you—but also, your story can help inform them as they help others. “There needs to be a better understanding of the pathogenesis of the infection and resulting inflammatory response, so that knowledge can drive the development of therapeutic and preventive medications,” says Richard Martinello, MD, a Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist and medical director of infection prevention at Yale New Haven Health in Yale Medicine.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.