A growing number of people are reporting signs of long COVID, a concerning trend where virus symptoms continue for months after initial infection. Not helping matters is the spread of BA.5, the highly transmissible Omicron subvariant which is evading immunity from vaccines and prior infection. "We do know for absolutely certain that there is a post-COVID syndrome," Dr. Fauci says. "Anywhere from 25% to 35%—or more—have lingering symptoms well beyond what you would expect from any post viral syndrome like influenza and others." Here are five signs you've already had COVID, according to Dr. Fauci. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Dr. Fauci has warned about fatigue being one of the signs of post-COVID syndrome. "Many [patients] had only minor COVID-19 symptoms to start, and here they are months later saying, 'I can't return to work. I can't take care of my kids.' They struggle with symptoms like intense fatigue, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and cognitive impairment. Tied to that are anxiety and depression. They are understandably very frustrated," says Johns Hopkins pulmonologist Emily Brigham, MD.
Shortness of Breath
Dr. Fauci has highlighted shortness of breath as another common sign of long COVID. "Some systematic reviews and studies have shown this to be more common in older patients. But in our practice, we are seeing it more common in younger patients," says Michael Ghobrial, MD, Medical Director of Respiratory Therapy and Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Cleveland Clinic's Medina Hospital. "It's more common in females compared to males. It's also more common in patients who have other comorbidities and patients who have been having significant disease."
Long-term brain fog—where people have memory issues, trouble focusing, and more—is one of the more common symptoms of long COVID, Dr Fauci says. "There are thousands of people who have that," says Dr. Igor Koralnik, chief of neuro-infectious disease at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. "The impact on the workforce that's affected is going to be significant."
Dr. Fauci has mentioned chronic, ongoing sleep issues as a sign of long COVID. "Sleep disorders are one of the most common symptoms that patients who suffer from post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection are having these days. So mainly what we are finding is that they complain from insomnia, fatigue, also brain fog, some of them present sometimes circadian rhythm disorders," says Cinthya Pena, MD, sleep specialist for Cleveland Clinic.
Ongoing muscle aches are another symptom of long COVID to be aware of, Dr. Fauci says.
"One out of three people who are ill with COVID-19 will have unusual muscle pains. It's more common in adults aged 16-65 (41%) than children (15%) or those over the age of 65 (36%)," according to the ZOE Health Study. "Unusual muscle pains are most likely to occur alongside other symptoms. Across all ages, most of the time muscle pains happen alongside fatigue and sometimes with fever, feeling dizzy or light-headed and skipping meals."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.