The next five to 10 days will be critical for President Donald Trump after his positive test for Covid-19. Doctors warn the illness can suddenly worsen after several days of relatively mild symptoms.
That’s particularly true for patients with two of the biggest risk factors for serious and even life-threatening complications of the disease: obesity and older age. At 74 and with a body mass index of 30.5, qualifying him as obese, Trump fits both criteria.
“I’m worried,” Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and an affiliate assistant professor at UW Medicine in Seattle, said Friday on NBC’s “TODAY.”
“I’ve cared for several patients with that double whammy,” Gupta said. “If they become sick, if they are symptomatic, they can escalate quickly to needing ICU care.”
What’s more, research has shown men tend to fare worse from Covid-19 than women.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters Friday that the president was experiencing “mild symptoms” but declined to elaborate. First lady Melania Trump tweeted that she, too, has mild symptoms but is “overall feeling good.” A letter from the White House physician confirming the positive test results for both Trumps said they were “well at this time.”
Only time will tell how the virus will affect them. “The hallmark of this infection is unpredictability,” Dr. Michael Saag, an associate dean for global health at the University of Alabama, said. “It is impossible to know once someone gets infected what’s going to happen to them clinically.”
Saag not only treats Covid-19 patients; he had a serious case of the illness in March.
“The most common symptom is profound fatigue. Having experienced this infection myself, I can underscore the word profound,” Saag said, adding that fatigue is generally the longest-lasting symptom.
“I would predict that if he’s going to have symptoms, he will be suffering with some degree of fatigue from now through Election Day.”
It is unknown when the president was infected. That knowledge would be key in directing how his physicians will monitor and potentially treat him.
“I try to get as good a handle as I can on when my patient contracted the virus,” said Dr. Pieter Cohen, a physician with the Cambridge Health Alliance Respiratory Clinic near Boston. “If the president was exposed to the coronavirus less than five days ago, then this is very early in the infection.”
Cohen and other doctors who have been caring for Covid-19 patients for months say the infection has two key parts: an initial phase with minimal to no symptoms, followed, for some, by a more severe phase.
“Then there is the later, more concerning, days of illness, usually days four through eight but can be later as well,” Cohen said. “That is when serious complications, often beginning with difficulty breathing, tend to begin.”
Dr. Josh Denson, a pulmonary medicine and critical care physician at the Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans, said it’s rare for a person to become very sick within the first few days of infection.
“This could drag out,” Denson said. “If he recovers, it won’t be for a week or so. But I’ve had some patients get critically ill more than 2 to 3 weeks after the…