Australian COVID-19 survivors have revealed permanent damage and debilitating symptoms months after beating the virus.
Ongoing fatigue, ‘brain fog’, lung scarring and hair loss are some of the terrifying effects young and previously fit survivors have been left with, and they fear they’ll never return to full health.
Australian doctors warned that they are seeing significant post-covid illness which is likely to cause a serious long-term health issue in the country.
Researchers at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital have studied over 100 recovered COVID-19 patients, finding many are suffering long-term effects.
BlackRock associate Janine Coppi, 37, was fit, young and healthy before her mild case of coronavirus – but five-and-a-half months later she still hasn’t recovered
Janine Coppi (pictured) went from winning ultra-marathons to still suffering debilitating symptoms more than five months after recovering from her bout of covid-19, which is distressing as doctors do not know how to help her
Fit, young ultra-marathon champion Janine Coppi, 37, contracted a mild case of of the virus five-and-a-half months ago – and still hasn’t recovered.
The Sydney resident never needed hospitalisation – but she didn’t make a speedy recovery.
Ms Coppi still cannot run her marathons months later and says the five months after her illness have been worse than the illness itself.
The accomplished associate at BlackRock, one of the world’s largest investment management firms, suffers ‘brain fog’ so badly that when she looked at her watch and could see the hands and numbers, she couldn’t force herself to make the mental effort to work out what the time was.
Ms Coppi choked back tears as she revealed how devastating it is to have only regained about 60 per cent of her former health – on a good day – five months later.
St Vincent’s Hospital respiratory specialist David Darley points out the cloudy areas showing the damage covid-19 has wrought on the lungs of one patient
‘It’s hard to talk about,’ she told 60 Minutes.
‘It’s something deep inside me, like there’s a trauma – and doctors not knowing how to help, what to do, makes it a lot scarier.’
Some have dismissed coronavirus as little more than the flu, and a risk only to the elderly and those with underlying conditions such as diabetes.
Previously fit, healthy 49-year-old Joe Tannous in St George Hospital in March. The Liberal party lobbyist spent 10 days in an induced coma and thought his ordeal was over when he survived. Now, six months later, he still cannot climb a flight of stairs easily
LIberal party lobbyist Joe Tannous pictured before he got coronavirus. Mr Tannous said he still can’t lift the weights he used to lift, or box or walk the distance he used to walk
Joe Tannous, now aged 50, getting a CT scan in one of his weekly trips to hospital. He has not yet recovered from his bout of coronavirus six months ago
However the risk of long-term disabilities from the virus is now clearly becoming an issue for younger, formerly healthy, survivors.
Liberal Party lobbyist Joe Tannous was 49 when he contracted COVID-19 in March.
The father-of-three had been fit and healthy and had no underlying health conditions when he tested positive.
Unlike Ms Coppi, he did not contract a mild case.
St Vincent’s Hospital specialists Gregory Dore (left) and David Darley (right) are conducting ground-breaking research on how coronavirus affects survivors in the year after their illness
By March 21 he was coughing so badly he couldn’t talk and an ambulance rushed him to St George Hospital where he was the first patient admitted to the hospital’s new COVID-19 ward.
He quickly became so sick that he had to be put in an induced coma for 10 days and nearly died.
He thought his ordeal had ended once he checked out of hospital.
Instead he has had to return to hospital almost weekly for a battery of tests as his health has not recovered.
Mr Tannous told 60 Minutes he can’t even walk up a flight of stairs anymore without becoming breathless.
‘I can’t come to the gym and lift the weights that I used to be able to lift, and do the boxing and do the training that I used to be able to do, and certainly can’t walk the distance that I used to walk or ride my bike,’ he said.
Doctors at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, are conducting a year-long follow-up investigation to research the long-term effects of coronavirus.
They are concerned they are seeing inflammation and scarring of the lungs months after patients have beaten the virus.
St Vincents Hospital respiratory specialist David Darley pointed out how COVID-19 scars the lungs of a worrying number of patients, which appear as cloudy, white patches on the scans.
‘After COVID-19 infection, we’re seeing a significant minority of patients who have persistent symptoms,’ he said.
‘This is bad news. This means the virus is causing very significant inflammation and pneumonia which can make a patient very sick.’
Professor Gregory Dore, infectious diseases expert at St Vincents, said most patients experience ongoing fatigue, brain fog, reduced exercise performance and chest heaviness.
‘What I think is concerning many people is that they didn’t get over it,’ he said.
‘The initial acute illness might’ve resolved somewhat, but then the symptoms continued and, in some respects, did become more constant and more debilitating.’
After people get over the virus, the symptoms become constant and debilitating, which scares people as they don’t recover quickly.
American actress Alyssa Milano said she had never been so sick in her life as when she caught the virus in April – but she never expected to still be sick five months later.
Alyssa Milano says she still suffers from ‘brain fog’ five months after her covid infection. Of all her friends who have had the virus, none have recovered fully, she said
In earlier posts, Milano revealed how she had recently tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies – despite testing negative for the virus after falling ill in March
The star of Charmed and ’80s TV sitcom Who’s The Boss? said that since falling ill, she has continued to suffer ‘vertigo, stomach abnormalities, irregular periods, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, zero short-term memory, and general malaise’.
‘This is not the flu,’ she said as she described it felt like something moving around throughout her body.
‘I get panicky even thinking about those nights where I couldn’t breathe,’ she said.
After beating the virus she still hasn’t recovered her pre-covid health.
The hardest part was losing her mental sharpness.
‘My brain is usually very quick but I have this brain fog and I lose track of my words – it can be a word like ‘coffee’ and I’m like – it will just disappear for me,’ she said.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 26,898
New South Wales: 4,200
Western Australia: 662
South Australia: 466
Australian Capital Territory: 113
Northern Territory: 33
TOTAL CASES: 26,898
CURRENT ACTIVE CASES: 903
Updated: 8.50 PM, 20 September, 2020
Milano said she fears she’ll never recover 100 per cent.
‘All of my friends that have had this – there’s not anyone that is not a ‘long-hauler’ – no-one has recovered completely from this that I know, she said.
New research suggests the coronavirus can infect brain cells, hijacking the internal machinery of neurons to replicate, killing them.
The coronavirus has previously been linked to brain damage from inflammation to encephalopathy which can cause ‘brain fog’, delirium and confusion that has been associated with the virus.
The research paper was posted to pre-print database bioRxiv but has not yet been peer-reviewed.
Senior author, Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, told LiveScience that the team was actively searching patient tissues to find how frequently covid-19 brain infections occur and which areas of the brain are infected.
Milano has previously documented how the virus made her hair fall out.
In an Instagram video, the 47-year-old celebrity brushes her recently washed hair – with clumps of it coming away in her hands.
‘I just wanted to show you the amount of hair that is coming out of my head as a result of Covid… one brushing,’ says the 47-year-old star of hit series Charmed. ‘Wear a damn mask,’ she adds before the clip ends.
Social media is awash with similar stories, and the scientific evidence is mounting.
Almost a third of 1,500 people surveyed by researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine reported hair loss after suffering with Covid-19.
The British Association of Dermatologists says its experts have also seen a rise in patients reporting ‘dramatic hair loss’ months after virus symptoms.
In May, The Mail on Sunday’s Health team reported on growing numbers of coronavirus sufferers experiencing lingering symptoms.
While official sources suggested the infection typically lasted for two weeks, many had been unwell for months. Extreme fatigue, breathlessness, pain, nausea, ‘brain fog’ and even heart problems are among the symptoms reported in people recovering from severe cases and also those with more mild illness.
Italian researchers reported that nearly nine in ten Covid-19 patients discharged from a Rome hospital were still experiencing at least one symptom 60 days after onset, with fatigue, breathing difficulties, joint and chest pain the most common.