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Local doctors say it's too early to know long-term impact on coronavirus patients

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Local doctors say it could be some time before we know how the coronavirus impacts patients long-term. 

"The answer is we don’t know yet, we don’t know the full population that are infected," said Dr. John Fangman, Infectious Disease Specialist at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin.

"The CDC has estimated there may be up to ten times as many people infected as are being diagnosed so we don’t know the full population. We do know there’s a subset of patients who can have a very protracted illness in recovery and early concerns are being raised about long-term consequences of that, in terms of, especially of lung function," he said. 

"I don’t think we have systematically studied patients with COVID who recovered and maybe went home, haven't studied the long-term effects. The pandemic's not been around for that long," said Dr. Rahul Nanchal, Professor of Pulmonary Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Froedtert Hospital.

He said a fair number of general critical illness patients who become really sick and require a stay in the ICU, develop Post-intensive Care Syndrome, which can impact physical and mental health. 

"I think the people who become really sick from COVID are probably no different. We are probably going to see some of these disturbances in them as well, but I think COVID also brings with it the social isolation that patients experience, the fear that patients experience, it’s a new disease, and so I presume we are probably going to see a lot of mental health issues. The three main mental health issues that we see with generally critical ill patients is anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder " Nanchal said. 

He said a few of his patients have had to go to rehab after leaving the ICU and weight loss has been common. 

"This was a totally unknown disease and people are just presenting with a whole variety of manifestations and there is something new to learn everyday about how this virus is affecting the body," Nanchal said. 

Nanchal estimates it will be about a year before we start seeing concrete data about the long-term effects the virus has had. 



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