Potential Long Term Heart Damage From COVID-19
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is still spreading rapidly around the world. Some countries are experiencing a "second wave" as we are entering the Fall flu season and more and more businesses are beginning to reopen.
One of the things that is not widely reported by the media is the potential long term effects of even a mild case of COVID-19 infection. We are almost 10 months into the pandemic, and as more longer term study results on recovered COVID-19 patients come in around the world, we are beginning to get a clearer view of the potential long term health consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is unique amongst corona-viruses in that it seems to attack multiple organ systems, including the cardiovascular system. One German study (Puntmann, MD, PhD, et. al.), published in July of this year, found that 78 out of 100 recovered COVID-19 patients (some with "mild" disease and recovered at home), had physiological evidence of long term heart involvement such as myocardial inflammation (64-92 days post diagnosis). Another study from the US (Eiros, MD, et. al.) in healthcare workers who recovered from COVID-19 infection, found that up to 42% ended up with heart issues such as pericarditis or myocarditis (9 to 11 weeks post infection symptoms).
These study results are very concerning from a public health perspective. As many of the study participants were not older (many in their 40s and even 30s in the German study). A high percentage of COVID-19 recovered patients may have long term hidden heart damage that may cause issues (e.g., sudden heart attacks) as they age, even for those who initially suffered and recovered from mild symptoms. In light of these study results, we urge everyone to continue taking this pandemic seriously. Do not take unnecessary risks even if you are a younger individual. Please continue to practice mask wearing and social distancing when you interact with others.