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Dr. Fauci Just Warned of 'Serious' COVID Side Effects

The nation’s top infectious disease doctor is concerned for long-haulers, and our kids.
woman with face mask feeling sick and holding her head in pain while measuring temperature at home.

Several months into the pandemic, it's becoming clear that even those with seemingly mild cases of coronavirus may sustain long-term health damage. During a live episode of the podcast Healthy You: Surviving a Pandemic, hosted by George Washington University, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's go-to infectious disease expert, warned about these "long haulers"—those who battle a more mild form of the virus but suffer from lingering side effects for months after. Read on, and click here for the full 98 Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

1

On the Serious Long-Term Side Effects

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Long haulers—those who are still experiencing the wrath of COVID-19 long after the virus subsides—are extremely concerning to Dr. Fauci. He explains that many of the most troubling cases of the virus involve people who did not require hospitalization, and actually recover within a few weeks. However, "a substantial proportion of them don't feel right," experiencing fatigue, muscle aches, and brain fog. "The thing that worries me more is what we're seeing about the subtle insidious effects on the cardiovascular system and the nervous system, namely MRIs and PET scans that show abnormalities of inflammatory processes in the brain, in the heart of some individuals," he explained, adding that it isn't just "1% or 2%" of individuals, but "double digit percent" who are experiencing this. "Now they may be reversible and they may completely clear after a while, but we don't know that. So we better be careful that just because a person survives—and obviously the overwhelming amount of people do survive—that there may be a certain percentage of people who might have serious residual effects to follow that."

2

On How Children Are Not Immune to the Virus

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Children are not immune to coronavirus, points out Dr. Fauci. "We should not neglect the fact that children, some can get seriously ill," he said, adding that the chances are "much lesser, lesser likelihood than the adults." He also touched upon some of the serious health conditions seen in younger people, revealing that we still don't have a grasp on what the long term damage may be. "There are other syndromes that we're just starting to see right now, inflammatory syndromes that children have. We don't know the extent of that. It seems to be unusual, but we don't know the full extent, but the issue is we're starting to learn a lot about children getting infected. They clearly do. And there've been some studies to show that children from 10 to 19 can transmit to adults as easily as adults transmit to them," he said. 

3

On the Not-So-Likelihood That Russia Has a Safe and Effective Vaccine

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"It's not bogus because he has a vaccine, what's bogus is to say you have a vaccine that's safe and effective," Fauci responded when asked about Russian President Vladamir Putin's claims of a coronavirus vaccine."There's a big difference between having a vaccine and proving in trials, that are really well-designed, randomized placebo-controlled trials, that when you're starting to give it widely to hundreds of millions of people, that you're giving a safe and effective vaccine," he said. "The Russians, to my knowledge and I'm pretty sure I'm correct, have not been studying this intensively in very large, randomized, placebo-controlled trials."

4

On the Best Way to Convince People to Get Vaccinated

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Fauci pointed out that "vaccine disinformation can lead to vaccine hesitancy." Therefore, it is important to engage these individuals rather than criticize them—especially those in minority communities. "You get out there and you get community representatives to engage them, to try and be as transparent as you possibly can with the data, answer the questions that they have and try to convince them that vaccinations in general, particularly a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, is something that's important for them, their families and society in general," Fauci said. While he hopes that most people will choose to get vaccinated, he would never support a mandated approach, as it would be "unenforceable and inappropriate."

5

On How to Send Children Back to School Safely

Girl with face mask back at school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown.
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Fauci explained that there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to sending children to school, and that it should be entirely dependent on the level of infection in the community. "You really want to think twice before you get the children back to school," he admitted. "I don't think there should be an all or none—all the kids go back or all the kids stay locked in. You've got to look at extenuating circumstances and you've got to look at the location where the school is."

6

On the Potential for Infection in Colleges and Universities

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"It's a big, big difference," Fauci said, when asked about how the reopening of colleges and universities should be handled. "People are coming from all over the country. You might be having people coming from red zones, yellow zones and green zones. It really varies." While he admits it may be "conceivable" to successfully bring people back to colleges and universities, it would involve a lot of work—such as testing everyone before coming in, doing intermittent surveillance testing, and having the capability of identifying, isolating and contact tracing.

7

On How You Can Help Control This Outbreak

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In terms of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci is most concerned about those who aren't abiding by the fundamental principles. "It is completely in our power, even prior to a vaccine, to be able to control this outbreak," he said. "If we abide by the certain fundamental public health principles that we talk about—wearing of masks, physical distancing, avoiding crowds, outdoor more than indoor, sanitation, washing hands with soap and water—if you just do that, you could definitely influence the course of the outbreak." So do as he says, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

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