BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Thousands of people have recovered from COVID-19. We know the symptoms of the virus can be brutal, but what does the recovery process entail?
State health experts report recovery from COVID-19 can take a few days to several months. The process depends on how sick the patient gets.
As of Tuesday night, more than 15,000 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Alabama. More than 1,600 had been hospitalized and nearly 8,000 people had been presumed recovered.
Health officials said the vast majority of those infected with the virus have mild symptoms, but it can take days or weeks to feel normal again.
“Continues to have shortness of breath, a nagging cough that won’t go away, and otherwise just don’t feel very energetic,” Dr. Wesley Willeford, Medical Director for Disease Control with the Jefferson County Department of Health, said.
For those who are hospitalized and placed in the intensive care unit, the recovery process can be slow, long, and arduous, according to Willeford, who said many times recovery would require rehabilitation.
“Even simple things can become very difficult like moving around in the bed. Standing up can be very challenging. The longer you are incapacitated, the longer the recovery is,” Willeford said.
The main culprit is muscle weakness. Dr. Willeford said the machines used in ICU to keep patients alive are very tough on the body.
“Being sedated, not moving, having a machine breathe for you. It takes its toll and coming back from that is no easy task,” he explained.
As for the state’s recovery rate, Willeford said that number was an estimated figure.
Willeford explained the state would determine that if after 14 days from diagnosis, if a positive case is not hospitalized it is presumed recovered. For cases that are hospitalized, Willeford said it was 32 days.
“The actual act of saying who has recovered is a bit more time consuming,” Willeford said.
Most of the state’s resources were being used for contact tracing, according to Willeford. He said physically checking in with each patient and retesting them was not an option at the time.
The health department uses certain parameters to determine if a person has recovered.
“Have 10 days passed since you were diagnosed? And have they had at least three days without a fever, without needing fever reducing agents,” explained Willeford.
Willeford reiterated the importance of wearing a face covering and practicing social distancing, saying, “it’s our best defense right now.”