Post-Acute COVID Syndrome: Long-Haulers or Lifers?


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Ivanhoe Newswire) — COVID-19 … it’s a virus that takes your breath away. Initially thought to be a disease that impacts the elderly, now, 40 and 50-year-olds who suffered mild symptoms are showing up at the doctor’s office with debilitating symptoms. It’s officially called post-acute COVID syndrome. And, these COVID long-haulers fear they may never get better.

Jeff Engman likes to work hard and play hard.

Then, just as he started his latest project, this 58-year-old was hit hard by COVID.

“The fatigue, I was really drained and, you know, could hardly get out of bed,” explained Engman.

After a few weeks Jeff recovered. Then …

“COVID caused some abscesses in my lungs,” Engman continued.

Ten months later, Jeff, like some people diagnosed with COVID, is still dealing with COVID brain fog, weakness, extreme fatigue, migraines, mini strokes, heart issues, shortness of breath, fever, coughs, body aches, stiff joints and balance issues. The CDC reports up to 35 percent of those infected endure symptoms lasting beyond three weeks.

“These are totally healthy people,” shared Dixie Harris, MD, Pulmonologist, Intermountain Healthcare Pulmonary and Critical Care.

One theory, COVID kicks the immune system into overdrive and stays in overdrive even after the virus is gone, damaging other organs. The big question … how long will the symptoms last?

“I don’t know how long these will last. I typically am seeing is they’re slowly getting better. I haven’t seen anybody plateau and not improve yet,” said Dr. Harris.

As for Jeff, ten months later, he says he has good and bad days.

“It’s not going away like I thought it would. You kind of wonder if you’re, you know, are you ever going to get better?” stated Engman.

In autopsy reports of COVID patients, doctors are finding damage to not just the lungs, but the heart, brain, kidney and liver, suggesting that COVID is much more than a respiratory disease. Mount Sinai has opened a center for post-COVID in New York with 40 doctors dedicated to studying and treating long-haulers. They are modeling the center after what they did for first responders after 911 … treating a large group of people after a catastrophic event, but they say this is on a much larger scale.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and, Rusty Reed, Videographer.

REPORT #2820

BACKGROUND: Coronaviruses are a type of virus which can cause disease, and there are many different kinds. The newest coronavirus is called COVID-19. Researchers know that this virus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds. It appears that symptoms are showing up in people within 14 days of exposure to the virus. Some patients continue to experience symptoms related to COVID after the acute phase of infection. They call it post-acute COVID syndrome. The syndrome appears to affect those with mild as well as moderate-to-severe disease.

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LINGERING EFFECTS: Many coronavirus patients suffer symptoms such as breathlessness, excessive fatigue, and muscle aches for months after being treated at a hospital. Though most patients reported improvements in initial symptoms such as fever, cough, and sense of smell, a large number still had quality of life issues, researchers reported. They struggled to carry out daily tasks such as washing, dressing, and going back to work. “This research helps to describe what many coronavirus patients have been telling us. They are still breathless, tired, and not sleeping well months after admission,” said David Arnold, a doctor from North Bristol NHS Trust. However, Dixie Harris, MD with Intermountain Medical Center says, “Newer reports say less than 50% of infected patients (hospitalized and non-hospitalized) and including college-age patients have ongoing symptoms.”


LOOKING AHEAD TO LONG-TERM ANSWERS: One common theory about patients with long-term COVID symptoms is that the virus possibly remains in their bodies in some small form. Another theory is their immune system continues to overreact even though the infection has passed. The answer is not clear as to whether the symptoms of COVID can cause permanent damage. Health care providers don’t know how many of these symptoms are permanent, or if there is permanent damage being done. Some patients who have been seriously ill from COVID develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which can permanently scar their lungs. However, it’s not clear if there is any scarring for long-haulers who have respiratory issues but not at the severe level of ARDS. Other patients with long-term loss of smell and taste worry about permanent damage, too. Experts believe that the loss of smell and taste won’t be permanent. For most people, there will likely be resolution, but there isn’t a clear answer as to how long this will take.


* For More Information, Contact:

Erin Goff, Media Relations Manager/Intermountain Medical Center

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