Duke doctor says health experts are finding new, concerning COVID-19 symptoms in some patients

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — As more people are being diagnosed with COVID-19, doctors are finding concerning symptoms unlike what they’ve seen before.

“You learn a lot of things really quickly when you’ve observed a disease progressed to 2.5 million people in 3 and a half months. We’re going to find we’re going to continue to find new things about this illness in the coming months. It takes people really paying attention to the disease spectrum to follow that,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Cameron Wolfe.

Among the issues Wolfe is referring to are the potentially fatal drop in oxygen levels in some who are infected, but not showing any symptoms. There have also been blood clots and strokes in younger people.

“You get a 20- or 30-year-old who comes forward with a diagnosed stroke. That’s incredibly uncommon, so that is worth a much more significant investigation. That’s a rare event from the outside. We have not really seen that in other similarly severe ends of the spectrum of respiratory illnesses,” Wolfe explained.

Wolfe is helping to lead Duke’s coronavirus task force. He said the fact that they are seeing patients with blood clots is changing how they treat them.

“So there’s clearly this storm of activity that’s sort of growing and evolving in some of the sickest individuals. Whether it actually translates into a markedly higher potential to clot or it’s just the indicator of the inflammatory response that’s going on, I don’t think we’re perfectly clear on that yet,” Wolfe said.

“So the way we’re sort of trying to tackle it here is to say, ‘Look, we’re not 100 percent sure what the real clinical implications of that are. So, let’s treat these most inflamed most unwell individuals in the same way that we do other sick folks who come in with a higher risk.’ So, for example, if you come into any major trauma center after a car accident, for example, you’re immobile. You’ve got lots of injuries. We know that group trauma patients have a higher risk of developing a clot so we treat them with blood thinners at low levels accordingly. Same here.”

As for a vaccine, Wolfe said don’t expect one this year.

“I think what that does mean is that places — like North Carolina that has done a really good job at keeping COVID-19 to a minimum — need to be conscious. (North Carolina) only had maybe at most 10 to 15 percent of our population have been exposed to this and had any chance to develop any immunity, so that leaves a lot of us still at risk. And I think we will not be reverting to a 2019 normal for the remainder of this year. That’s what we’re planning for here in the hospital and on the university campus.

“I’ll leave people with this: It is going to be with us for a good long period of time.”

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