SALT LAKE CITY — A growing number of people across the United States are experiencing lingering symptoms of COVID-19.
In a recent interview with the American Medical Association, Dr. Anthony Fauci said anywhere from 25 to 35 percent of people who contract COVID-19 have lasting symptoms.
For some, the symptoms last weeks, for others months later, they are still suffering. Those who have lasting symptoms are known as "COVID-19 long-haulers."
In late March, Christine Maughan started having COVID-19 symptoms. It was early in the pandemic, so she wasn’t exactly sure what was wrong. In mid-April she tested positive for COVID-19, months later she is still experiencing symptoms.
“I thought that if I got it and I was lucky enough to survive that I would be better in a few weeks because that is what they were saying,” she said.
Some of her symptoms include debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, hair loss, rash and more.
“I have problems with my heart rate being both too high and too slow and the same goes for my blood pressure,” Maughan said.
While doctors try to treat each symptom there is little known how to treat these types of patients or why the body reacts this way. The University of Utah is funding research to find those answers.
There is a misconception that when the COVID-19 vaccine comes out everything will be fine and we will never have to talk about COVID-19 again, according to the associate director of the Immunology, Inflammation, & Infectious Disease (3i) Initiative at the University of Utah.
“A large portion of our population could be or could become long-haulers between now and when everyone becomes vaccinated. And so, this is going to be a segment of the population that is going to have chronic illness issues until we figure out how to resolve them,” Dr. Nicole Frank said.
The "Utah COVID-19 Long Haulers" Facebook group provides a safe place for those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms for more than 30 days can connect. As cases sure in Utah, the group has almost doubled in size during the past month, Maughan said.
It’s wonderful to have a community, but it’s difficult to see so many people hurting with so few answers, Maughan said.
“I so badly want to tell them that it gets better, and some things do but some things have lasted for so long,” she said.
The hope comes from research initiatives like this, not just for COVID-19 long-haulers but also for other people who suffer from post-viral illnesses.
“That gives a chance for there to be treatment options and for people who are struggling with long COVID to live a more normal life,” Maughan said.
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