'Leaving the hospital doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods:' Doctors discuss hospital discharge for COVID patients

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- After spending 72 hours at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, President Donald Trump returned to the White House Monday. 

Dr. Minhaj Husain, an infectious disease physician at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center, says a person's hospital stay depends on the patients and the treatments they receive. 

"Some come in with very minimal symptoms and they can be discharged in 48 hours, 72 hours," he said, "If they received multiple modalities that means they’re a lot sicker so they can have a longer course, maybe they’ll be in the hospital five, six, seven days, maybe longer ."

He says what happens when a patient leaves can also vary. 

"When they leave the hospital, we like to think the worst is behind them, but unfortunately some have required re-hospitalization at times becomes symptoms kept occurring," he said. 

He said sometimes the symptoms can linger. 

"With COVID, you can recover but you can have relapses of symptoms, unfortunately, you can be well for a little bit and then the shortness of breath can come back. So one of the lingering symptoms can be fatigue and they can get winded easily with minimal exertion, lack of smell, lack of taste, cough very persistent, some reported weeks of cough, sometimes months," Husain said. 

"For people that are already ill with COVID-19, we ask them to stay in isolation for at least ten days from the time their symptom started, it could be longer than ten days, but it wouldn’t be shorter," said Dr. Nasia Safdar, medical director for infection control at UW-Health, "If people that might require, severe illness that they go to the ICU or the immune system is compromised, those people tend to show the virus longer."

Safdar said patients who get remdesivir, the antiviral drug doctors say President Trump has received, receive the five-day course in the hospital. 

"Generally people will have completed their treatment course before they leave. They still might need a little supplemental oxygen if they need it, and they might be pretty frail and might take some time to fully recover from their illness," Safdar said. 

An illness, she says, that is still unpredictable with how it impacts those infected. 

"We already know the vast majority of people, even if you get COVID, will do okay, but there is such a big spectrum, and there have been 200,000 plus deaths in the U.S. so clearly there are people who don’t do well with it, " she said, "And you don’t necessarily know what group you fall into until you get ill and you realize which way it's going."


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