Fayetteville doctor warns long-term effects of COVID-19 could lead to dialysis, chronic cardiac and brain problems

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, health experts are starting to better understand its devastating and long-lasting effects.

According to hospital staffers, Cape Fear Valley Health Hospital has seen an uptick in COVID-19 patient intake by 50 percent. If patients with severe symptoms require a ventilator, health officials have said there is a moderate chance of survival. If they survive, some of the effects could last a lifetime.

Dr. Michael Zappa is Chief of Emergency Services at Cape Fear Valley Health Hospital and has been on the frontline of this pandemic since its start. Within the hospital's walls, he's seen death and remarkable recovery stories. He said the virus attacks almost every major organ in the body and causes severe vessel damage during infection and long after.

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"Those who were very sick and often in ICU for weeks could wind up with problems with their kidneys that could lead to dialysis, chronic cardiac problems or chronic problems with their brain," Zappa said.

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The emergency medicine physician said other mild symptoms could include fatigue, cough and easy exhaustion with mild exertion. Many question if COVID-19 survivors can get re-infected with the virus.

Zappa has seen it with his own eyes.

"Right now to say 'I've had COVID-19 and now I don't have to worry because I've recovered,' we don't see evidence that having it once grants you immunity," Zappa said.

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The number of COVID-19 cases across North Carolina total more than 95,000 and more than 1,600 people have died from the virus. In Cumberland County, the case count has reached 1,849 with 47 deaths.

As researchers continue to uncover key details of the short and long term effects of the coronavirus, Dr. Zappa said practicing constant handwashing, wearing a mask and respecting the 6-foot rule will help you and your loved ones get through this pandemic safely.

"I can't tell you for how long you have to make this adjustment. What I can tell you is it's more than a few weeks and it's probably more than a few months," Zappa said.
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