Will nCoV survivors suffer lasting disability at a high rate?

post by jimrandomh · 2020-02-11T20:23:50.664Z · score: 68 (21 votes) · LW · GW · 1 comment

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The case fatality rate of 2019-nCoV (aka Coronavirus, COVID-19) is still uncertain, with estimates floating around ranging from 0.16%-5.7%, higher among the elderly and people with preexisting conditions, and lower among everyone else. However, the death rate doesn't capture all of the harms from infection. There is also time lost during the infection and recovery, there is the possibility of accelerated aging, and there is the possibility of long-term nonfatal disability, such as chronic fatigue.

Since 2019-nCoV has only existed for about two months, there is no data on the long-term outcomes of its survivors. However, the rate of lasting disability among survivors is important for deciding what responses are appropriate. I'm particularly interested in estimating the risk of chronic fatigue from nCoV infection. If that risk is high, this would greatly increase the importance of avoiding it personally and of suppressing it in communities of people doing important work, and would also greatly increase the expected economic impact.

As a starting point, I chose a similar but more severe virus, SARS, which was successfully contained in 2003. Out of 208 Canadian survivors of SARS, 22 (10%) appear in this study of subjects "who remained unable to return to their former occupation" with "clinical similarities to patients with fibromyalgia syndrome". This implies a high lower bound on the rate of disability among SARS survivors. However, this is only one virus, and may not be representative of severe respiratory illnesses.

Good answers to this question would be:

Any research help on this question is greatly appreciated, even if it provides only a bit of information about a small corner of the problem, or reports that a strategy for answering the question failed to pan out.

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answer by avturchin · 2020-02-12T12:11:08.997Z · score: 14 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I've seen the following quote:

"Moreover, reportedly the virus does serious damage to people’s lower respiratory systems — supposedly it can take “…at least six months for patients to recover heart and lung function.” If this becomes endemic across the world, even developed nation’s healthcare systems will struggle to provide care." https://www.cassandracapital.net/post/coronavirus-the-status-of-the-outbreak-and-4-possible-scenarios"

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comment by jimrandomh · 2020-02-12T20:04:38.306Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Comments from Facebook crossposts of this question:

Ryan C: The likeliest kind of disability would be pulmonary fibrosis or some other chronic lung condition from the trauma there.

William E: I don’t have any answers for you, but I’ve had the exact same thought myself. 😞 We will learn more in the coming months from the very first cases in Wuhan, as they recover full or partial function. I’m *personally* most worried about long term lung damage in people in our age cohort, as deaths have been so heavily concentrated in the elderly.