Long haulers: COVID-19 survivors grapple with lingering symptoms

Covid "long haulers" continue to exhibit symptoms after recovery

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - More than 90 percent of those who contract COVID-19 will recover. But for some, their lives are still far from normal.

“I think we need to do a better job describing to people that the consequences of this infection go way beyond that number”, stated Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, M.D., Dir. UAB Division of Infectious Diseases.

They’re called long haulers, patients who are virus-free but still have serious symptoms. Long haulers often experience permanent organ damage or continue to experience debilitating symptoms. People of all ages are susceptible.

“There’s the pulmonary or the lung symptoms”, Marrazzo explained. “People, including very young people, including people who did not have asthma or emphysema before continue to experience a sense of breathlessness. They just can’t catch their breath.”

Other issues include heart inflammation, vessel disease, and brain issues.

“The brain issue is a big thing”, stated Marrazzo. “There is this feeling for some people that they just can’t concentrate, they can’t really get back to work. We’ve seen frankly, young people with very demanding jobs not being able to get back to their jobs two or three months after COVID.”

While this is a key point of research, doctors haven’t been able to determine a cause or specific demographic who’s most at risk.

“This is not just people who were limited in their function pre-COVID, these are people who were highly functional in jobs and in society in terms of work, responsibilities, and they’re really having challenges”, Marrazzo said.

UAB is now establishing a clinic to treat and follow post-COVID patients with these symptoms.

“This is an interdisciplinary clinic, we’ll have cardiologists, pulmonologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, and of course infectious disease people working together to try to puzzle out what’s going on.”

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