HONOLULU (KHON) – When Nicholas Gianforti contracted COVID-19 in June, he didn’t have the symptoms commonly associated with the virus. He did not have a fever, and his senses of taste and smell remained intact.
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“For me, it was really bizarre. I had a lot of skin symptoms. There was a tingling sensation all over my body, a weird tingling sensation. My skin felt like it was on fire.”
The 47-year-old Kunia man felt fatigue, muscle aches, and the chills. Otherwise, he described his symptoms as mild.
“I did develop a mild, dry cough. I had some chest pain, no congestion, nothing to do with my lungs,” he said.
Following doctor’s orders, he quarantined and felt better.
Bizarrely, a month later, “I suddenly got the symptoms all over again, for 10 more days, off and on. So I got re-tested, to make sure I didn’t get it again.”
Gianforti’s second COVID-19 test came back negative. Stumped, he asked his doctor.
“Their assumption was, it’s recurring symptoms and it’s going to take time.”
Another puzzling change? Brain fog.
Gianforti recalls getting a cut on one of his fingers. He ended up bandaging the wrong finger.
“Now I’m noticing I don’t remember saying things. I’ll set up a (work) meeting and confirm it with the person, and they’ll say, ‘You said that already.’ How do I not remember I set up a meeting? I have a vague sense of it and normally I’m pretty on top of everything I do. I spell words wrong, I never used to spell wrong, like simple words.”
Medical experts cannot fully explain why some people infected with the virus have neurological symptoms.
“This disease has only been around since January (in the States). We don’t have long term studies beyond the infection,” said Doctor James Ireland.
Ireland says he’s had COVID-19 patients with experiences similar to Gianforti’s.
Then there’s what’s called a “long-hauler” – a growing number of people who never fully recover from COVID-19.
“This is definitely an increasingly recognized subset. It’s frustrating because people aren’t getting better in the 2 to 3 weeks like we’d expect.”
Ireland added, “There’s part of the nervous system called the autonomic nervous system, which regulates functions like digestion, breathing, your heartbeat. There seems to be some kind of problem with that part of the nervous system.”
Doctors are learning of lingering problems from COVID-19 that include fatigue, shortness of breath, “brain fog” or foggy thinking, a persistent loss of taste or smell, and achy joints.
Gianforti says he wouldn’t consider himself a long-hauler just yet, but he is part of a University of Hawaii study that researches the recovery of local residents that test positive for the virus.
“Be smart about where you’re going and who you’re around. I have not hugged another human being since the beginning of March. I’ve been so cautious. And I still go it,” said Gianforti.