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The One Sure Signal You've Already Had COVID-19

And it's particularly debilitating.

People who've had COVID-19 report a range of symptoms that last for weeks or months after they no longer test positive for the infection, ranging from skin rashes to neurological problems. But one long-lasting symptom is particularly debilitating and common: Fatigue. Read on, and to protect your health and the health of others, don't miss the full list of Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.    

More than half had fatigue

New research released this week found that more than half of COVID patients in one study reported fatigue they just couldn't shake, ranging from mild to severe.

"Fatigue is a common symptom in those presenting with symptomatic Covid-19 infection," said Dr. Liam Townsend, an infectious disease doctor at St. James's Hospital and Trinity Translational Medicine Institute in Dublin, Ireland, in a statement. "While the presenting features of SARS-CoV-2 infection have been well-characterized, the medium- and long-term consequences of infection remain unexplored."

Researchers interviewed 128 people who'd been diagnosed with COVID-19, an average of two-and-a-half months after their infection (by which time it was expected they'd recovered). But 52 percent reported persistent fatigue. It didn't matter how serious their bout with coronavirus was—even people with minor infections reported lasting fatigue.

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The results "may identify a group worthy of further study and early intervention," the researchers said.

The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, will be presented at the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Conference on Coronavirus Disease (ECCVID) later this month.

Latest evidence of "Long COVID"

It's the latest evidence that coronavirus is not the flu—it has a constellation of symptoms, a wide variety of outcomes, and can affect body systems from head to toe. As the pandemic wears on, researchers have reported that the virus's effects can last for months in "long-haulers," who just can't get back to feeling the way they did before contracting COVID-19. 

Many experience a phenomenon similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, on Aug. 13. "We're starting to see more and more people who apparently recover from the actual viral part of it, and then weeks later, they feel weak, they feel tired, they feel sluggish, they feel short of breath," he said. "It's very disturbing, because if this is true for a lot of people, then just recovering from this may not be okay. You may have weeks where you feel not exactly correct." 

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Other studies had similar findings on fatigue

According to the Long Hauler Symptom Survey at the Indiana University School of Medicine, among the top 50 long-lasting symptoms of coronavirus, fatigue is #1—reported by 1,567 of 1,567 patients surveyed.

Scientists aren't sure why the virus causes fatigue that's so prevalent and long-lasting. Fatigue can be caused by the malfunctioning of a wide variety of body systems and processes, and it isn't yet understood how the virus produces the severe effects that can lead to the worst outcomes: inflammation that can stop the lungs and heart from working altogether.

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael