Some say it’s like the worst flu they ever had. Others have had little or no symptoms. And some end up desperately ill on a critical care unit. But for many survivors of COVID-19, the initial infection is just the start of a long, tortuous struggle. It is estimated that 10-20% (other studies show 1 in 3) of those who’ve been infected with COVID, even those who were asymptomatic, suffer from COVID symptoms 6 months or more after infection. This trend is sounding alarms among public health experts, infectious disease doctors and epidemiologists.
A recent Swedish study of healthcare workers, reported by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), found that 15% of those studied reported at least one moderate to severe COVID symptom from an infection that occurred at least 8 months before. The most common lingering symptoms include fatigue, breathlessness, pain, brain fog and psychological problems. Symptoms can also include cardiac, vascular, neurological, gastrointestinal, renal and multiple respiratory conditions. Many suffer in silence or have their health issues dismissed by medical professionals.
Hoping symptoms don’t last
Cheryl Korzybski, RN, a NYSNA member work works in critical care at South Shore University Hospital/Northwell Health System, became ill due to COVID a year ago. Along with COVID, she developed bilateral pneumonia and was very ill. She was out of work for several months and continues to have respiratory problems including severely aggravated asthma.
Pat Monem, RN, a NYSNA member in the CCU at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, became ill with COVID just last month. She reports that returning to work has been very difficult due to lingering fatigue and periodic breathlessness. She hopes that her symptoms do not last much longer and wishes that hospitals gave staff who are returning to work after a COVID infection the opportunity to ease back part time until fully recovered.
Newly developed medical clinics that specialize in long-COVID, also known as post-COVID, are bringing much needed attention and scientific study to this problem. These clinics have multi-disciplinary teams studying the causes of, and effective treatments for, long-term COVID symptoms. The clinics have found that many long-term COVID symptoms appear grouped together, though it is not clear why. Some symptoms appear to be caused by an immune response that is dysregulated and won’t stop fighting a virus that is no longer there. For others it is possible that remnants of the virus, or pieces of virus, remain in their systems at too low a level to be picked up by tests. Whatever the cause or causes of post-COVID symptoms, these clinics are likely to be the first place where effective treatments are identified and administered.
If you have been infected with COVID-19 and continue to suffer symptoms 4-6 weeks after the initial infection, speak with your medical professional and consider seeking care at a post-COVID clinic in your area. If no such clinic is available, contact the clinics found in the links below to see if any of them offer telehealth services. If you believe your infection was caused by exposure in the workplace, remember to ask the clinic if the clinic, and the doctors they refer patients to, accept workers’ compensation.
Post-COVID clinics continue to open throughout the country. Clinics in your area can be found at www.survivorcorps.com/pccc. Additional clinics in the NYC area can also be found at https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/covid/covid-19-care-clinics.pdf.
If you have any questions regarding post-COVID care or would like to provide NYSNA with feedback regarding any post-COVID clinics, please send an e-mail to email@example.com.
If you have been infected with COVID-19 and continue to suffer symptoms 4-6 weeks after the initial infection, speak with your medical professional and consider seeking care at a post-COVID clinic in your area.