Not only with COVID: long-term consequences of infectious diseases

Updated February 3, 2021, 2:22 p.m.

  • Many young people also experience symptoms months after contracting COVID. WHO urges further research on the subject.
  • Likewise, alleged teething troubles can damage life. But you can protect yourself.

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Not only acute symptoms, but also the fear of months of complaints drives many who deal with the Coronavirus infect. And the more about this Long-term effects becomes known, the greater the fear of becoming infected. There are scientifically proven cases in which patients complain about chest pain, loss of smell or exhaustion even after months.

However, such processes are not something that came into the world with COVID. Long-term effects also occur after other infectious diseases. With them, too, as with COVID-19, it can sometimes take months for the body to regain its shape from before the infection. Here is a selection of diseases for which “recovered” does not necessarily mean “healthy”:


Typical symptoms some COVID patients complain about weeks later:

  • exhaustion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Joint and chest pain
  • Cough or loss of smell

One thing is certain: the virus not only attacks the lungs, but also other organs and nerves. There have been reports of patients suffering from Guillain-Barré syndrome, an inflammatory nerve disease with muscle paralysis, long after infection.

To be observed Long-term consequences even with symptom-free infection and even in children – for example:

  • fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Word finding disorders

In addition, after inflammatory processes due to an excessive immune reaction Organ damage to the lungs, kidneys or heart, for example arise.

According to Janet Diaz, an expert at the World Health Organization (WHO), research on the long-term consequences needs to be as much focused as on new virus variants. Millions of people suffer from it, she stresses. The WHO is hosting the first global long COVID seminar with scientists and doctors on February 9th. Thereafter, the exchange on the topic should be continued at regular intervals.


The flu comes suddenly and usually brings with it a fever, sore throat, cough, muscle or headache and general weakness. While the illness usually lasts five to seven days, it can too life-threatening courses up to death give – mainly to the elderly and small children.

  • Other pathogens can enter the body via the damaged airways and so, for example Inflammation of the lungs, heart muscle or brain cause.
  • It can too Cardiac arrhythmias, heart failure or circulatory shock come.

Here’s how you can protect yourself: The only real protection from the medical point of view is the annual vaccination.


It is very dangerous when the typical childhood disease chickenpox affects people with a weakened immune system, such as the chronically ill. After an infection, it usually takes around two weeks before symptoms such as fever and itchy blisters appear.

As a rule, after the first illness, one is immune to chickenpox for life. But the pathogens stay in the body. Even decades later, they can be reactivated and cause shingles, for example, in adults with decreased immunity.

This offers protection: Unprotected people get infected with chickenpox very easily from a sick person. For this reason, a double vaccination is recommended as early as infancy.


The immune system is weakened for around six weeks after infection with the highly contagious measles virus. Other pathogens can penetrate the body:

  • The disease can then still be around Otitis media, bronchitis and Pneumonia trigger.
  • In most cases, measles heals without any problems. In one in about 1,000 cases, however, there may be a Encephalitis and one Damage to the nerves come. This is partly fatal, partly the central nervous system remains damaged forever.

The incurable encephalitis can set in years after the measles disease.

This offers protection: A double vaccination is also recommended here. In Germany there is a compulsory vaccination for children in daycare centers and schools.

Scarlet fever

The childhood disease also affects adults. Skin rash, fever and sore throat are acute consequences.

  • In rare cases, the infection spreads in the body and attracts diseases like Pneumonia or tonsillitis after yourself.
  • Purulent Otitis media can occur in an untreated scarlet fever Hearing loss to lead.
  • Long-term effects such as rheumatic fever with inflammation of the knee joints, heart and kidneys. Here you can permanent damage arise.

This offers protection: Complications are more common when scarlet fever is not properly treated. Antibiotics such as penicillin help against the infection. But you are not immune after an illness.
© dpa


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