Coronavirus news: Latest on long COVID studies

As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread in Charlotte and beyond and new variants appear, some previously infected are still fighting a variety of symptoms.

Long COVID has become common enough — one CDC study estimates as many as one in five American adults who became infected then developed long COVID — to inspire treatment centers and support groups.

Some aspects of the condition are still relatively mysterious to both those experiencing it and those trying to treat it. But new research continues to shed light on what causes long COVID, who is most vulnerable to it and how long the symptoms last.

Here’s what we do and don’t know about long COVID:

What is long COVID and how long does it last?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that “long COVID,” also known as “post-COVID conditions,” is a situation where people infected with the COVID-19 virus “experience long-term effects from their infection.”

“Post-COVID conditions can include a wide range of ongoing health problems,” the agency explains. “These conditions can last weeks, months, or years.”

Doctors and researchers are still working to figure out exactly how long people may be afflicted with long COVID.

One recent study out of Israel found that most people who had long COVID in the wake of a mild COVID-19 infection saw their long COVID symptoms wane within a year.

Still, much is unknown about the condition, and it can impact various parts of the body and people of all ages, the American Medical Association says.

Long COVID symptoms

“Post-COVID conditions may not affect everyone the same way,” the CDC says, and various symptoms have been reported.

Some of the “most commonly” reported long COVID symptoms include:

  • fatigue

  • fever

  • coughing

  • Chest pain and/or shortness of breath

  • Heart palpitations

  • “Brainfog”

  • sleep problems

  • headaches

  • dizziness

  • Diarrhea and/or stomach pain

  • Joint and/or muscle pain

  • Changes to menstrual cycles

Where to get long COVID treatment in Charlotte

In Charlotte, Atrium Health has launched a Post COVID Recovery Care program to help those in the community dealing with long COVID.

Britney Broyhill, Atrium’s senior director of advanced practice and a doctor of nursing practice, previously told The Charlotte Observer the program is designed for when “you’ve had COVID, you’ve recovered from your acute symptoms, and still four weeks or six weeks or 12 weeks after that initial positive test, you’re just not back to your usual self.”

If you’re an Atrium patient and interested in getting treatment through the program, you should schedule an appointment with your Atrium primary care provider. If you don’t have a primary care doctor or your doctor isn’t affiliated with Atrium, you can call 704-468-5872 to inquire about an evaluation.

The CDC recommends coming to your appointment prepared with lists of your medical providers, symptoms, pre-existing conditions and medications. It can also be helpful, the agency says, to write down questions beforehand. And if allowed, bring a friend or family member to help take notes and ask questions.

Who is susceptible to long COVID and why

The CDC and other researchers are “working to understand more about who experiences post-COVID conditions and why, including whether groups disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 are at higher risk,” the agency says.

Long COVID is typically “found more often in people who had severe COVID-19 illness,” per the CDC. “But anyone who has been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience post-COVID conditions.”

And, the CDC adds, “while most people with post-COVID conditions have evidence of infection or COVID-19 illness, in some cases, a person with post-COVID conditions may not have tested positive for the virus or known they were infected. ”

Do vaccines, boosters protect against long COVID?

“People not vaccinated against COVID-19 and who become infected may have a higher risk of developing post-COVID conditions compared to people previously vaccinated,” the CDC advises.

Still, the agency notes, “anyone who has been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience post-COVID conditions.”

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Mary Ramsey is a service journalism reporter with The Charlotte Observer. A native of the Carolinas, she studied journalism at the University of South Carolina and has also worked in Phoenix, Arizona and Louisville, Kentucky.

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