Coronavirus patients
A recovered coronavirus patient in the UAE, with Consul-General of China to the UAE, Li Xuhang and Dr Fatima Al Attar, Head of International Health Regulations at the Ministry. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: As coronavirus spreads like wild fire and communities brace themselves to face what many now look at as the “inevitable”, the question that is doing the rounds is how long it takes for a COVID-19 patient to recover?

Although conclusive answers are yet to be documented, doctors in Dubai said the time it takes to recover depends on the severity of symptoms, age and other medical conditions of the patient.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) in the UAE on Tuesday announced 15 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total infection tally to 113. While two patients were earlier reported to be in the ICU, 26 have fully recuperated and the rest are on the road to recovery.

The road to recovery depends on the severity of symptoms, age and other medical conditions of the patient Image Credit: AFP

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that about 80 per cent of COVID-19 cases globally are mild, which means these cases, which usually involve fever, cough and perhaps shortness of breath, recover without much of an issue. And the younger the patient with no other medical complaints, the greater are the chances of quick recovery. Some patients, it has been reported, may not even be aware that they are sick.

What’s the recovery like?

According to Dr Mona Hegazi, Consultant Family Medicine at Mediclinic City Hospital in Dubai, “From what we know so far, some take it mildly, some become worse. There is no definite time in which a patient recovers after contracting the infection. It could be as little as seven days but can go on for over a month, depending on how the disease progressed.”

Dr Mohammed Arif, Internal Medicine Specialist, Aster Hospital, Mankhool, agrees. “There is almost 98 per cent recovery in positive COVID-19 cases. The mortality reported is mainly in older patients with associated serious medical conditions.”

Dr Arif
Dr Mohammed Arif, Internal Medicine Specialist, Aster Hospital Image Credit: Supplied

He said, “The average time taken for recovery in most of the cases is seven days, but duration can be prolonged depending on the severity of symptoms and other comorbidities and age of the patients. Prognosis is usually poorer in older people with multiple associated illnesses like heart, pulmonary and kidney diseases.”

What is the treatment course?

Dr Hegazi said treatment of coronavirus patients globally has so far been either “symptomatic” or along courses that still await the US-based Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

Dr Mona
Dr Mona Hegazi, Consultant Family Medicine at Mediclinic City Hospital Image Credit: Supplied

“The medicines that are administered to treat symptoms include those to bring the fever under control, along with non-steroid anti-inflammatory tablets. Of course, this is with respect to mild cases, as the approach in severe cases, where the lungs get affected, is different – the patients are ventilated and given oxygen,” she noted.

What happens in the body of a COVID-19 patient?

According to the doctors, patients develop a cough and fever when the infection reaches the air passages which also become inflamed. If the infection worsens, it can reach the end of the air passages with the inflammation spreading to the lungs. When fluid or inflammatory cells enter the lungs, it results in severe pneumonia which can prove fatal if the body does not get sufficient oxygen.

Research so far has shown that COVID-19 pneumonia is different from other types of pneumonia as it affects all of the lungs and does not respond to any known medication, including antibiotics.

But the good news is that most patients with mild COVID-19 in the absence of other medical conditions are said to take anywhere between seven-14 days to start recovering.

“During this period, recovery patient must have limited mobility and if in hospital, stay in the isolation room and if at home, should be in a separate room with all necessary facilities and use a face mask,” said Dr Arif.

How do you know you have recovered?

The doctors said there are established protocols that determine if the patient has recovered, and only when these conditions are met can the patient go about his normal life.

Dr Arif said, “Recovery is defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms like cough, shortness of breath. At least seven days should have passed since symptoms first appeared. The patient should not have presented any symptoms for at least three days (72 hours). Thirdly, the patient should have obtained negative results of the authorised molecular assay for COVID-19 from at least two consecutive nasopharyngeal swab specimens that are collected more than 24 hours apart.”

Even in the case of health care professionals, the CDC has come up with defined protocols on return to work for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 with options including a test-based strategy and a non-test-based strategy that considers both time since illness onset and time since recovery.