Story at a glance

  • Most coronavirus cases are not severe and do not require hospitalization or special treatment.
  • However, to call these cases “mild” may be an understatement.
  • Some COVID-19 patients are experiencing symptoms for long periods of time or complications that appear months after their diagnosis.

Some reports of coronavirus cases suggest that most are not severe or are “mild." However, the word “mild” may not accurately describe this group of cases; they may be more mild relative to the most severe cases requiring intensive care, but they may not be as moderate as the word implies.

Mild cases generally are ones that do not require hospitalization. But scientifically, it’s open to the interpretation of the experts who use the term.

The
World Health Organization (WHO) says “most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.”

The
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says “fever, cough, and shortness of breath are more commonly reported among people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 than among those with milder disease (non-hospitalized patients).”

U.S. coronavirus data estimates put the number of hospitalized cases at around 102.5 per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. If the remaining cases are considered “mild,” there is a large range of what that can mean in terms of severity of illness.

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But people who seem to have “mild” cases may not have an easy time getting through the disease and in some cases may eventually require special treatment. Health experts are still learning about the illness and what the virus does in the human body. There have been reports of blood clotting and strokes in people in their 30s and 40s. Young children are developing rashes and other symptoms in a syndrome that is being linked to the coronavirus.


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CORONAVIRUS RIGHT NOW

FAUCI WARNS YOUNG PEOPLE THEY ARE NOT IMMUNE TO ADVERSE EFFECTS OF CORONAVIRUS

12 STATES SHOW RECORD SPIKES IN CORONAVIRUS CASES

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People with “mild” cases are not coming out of it unscathed. Symptoms may reappear after a supposed recovery from COVID-19, and sometimes that can happen weeks or months later. “It’s almost like a blow to your ego to be in your 20s and healthy and active, and get hit with this thing and think you’re going to get better and you’re going to be OK. And then have it really not pan out that way,” says COVID-19 patient Fiona Lowenstein to The Guardian

Another factor to consider is that some of the symptoms and health issues caused by the virus may not be apparent until later. Some individuals are discovering complications as long as two months after they’ve had SARS-CoV-2. CNN anchor Richard Quest says in an article on the site that he’s still discovering areas of damage, including a newfound level of clumsiness.

From a clinician’s point of view, knowing how many cases are severe helps to prepare for hospitalizations. But for a regular person, it could give a false impression that the risks from SARS-CoV-2 are low.

“From my point of view, this has been a really harmful narrative and absolutely has misinformed the public,” Hannah Davis, who helped lead a survey on long-term COVID-19 recovery, tells The Guardian. “It both prohibits people from taking relevant information into account when deciding their personal risk levels, and it prevents the long-haulers from getting the help they need.”

As we learn more about the range of illness caused by the coronavirus, it may serve the public better to use more accurate terminology to describe the range of symptoms and severity of disease.


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People may be holding onto the numbers of “mild” cases as hope that they may not be affected by the virus, or if they do contract it that they can get through it easily. The truth is that in many U.S. states, cases are climbing higher than ever, and believing that you may not be affected very much may not protect you or the people close to you. Experts are not able to reliably predict who will truly have a mild case and who may have nagging symptoms lasting for a longer period of time, though that may change with more research.

Quest says, “Covid is a tornado with a very long tail.”

For up-to-date information about COVID-19, check the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. For updated global case counts, check this page maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

You can follow Chia-Yi Hou on Twitter.


BREAKING NEWS ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

COUNTRIES LED BY WOMEN HAVE FARED BETTER AGAINST CORONAVIRUS. WHY?

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MORE THAN 8.7 MILLION CORONAVIRUS CASES WENT UNDETECTED IN MARCH

EXPERTS: 90% OF CORONAVIRUS DEATHS COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED

FAUCI PREDICTS ANOTHER CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK IN THE FALL WITH A 'VERY DIFFERENT' OUTCOME

TEXAS REPORTS SINGLE-DAY HIGH IN CORONAVIRUS DEATHS TWO WEEKS AFTER REOPENING


 

Published on Jul 10, 2020