Some people with long Covid are seeing persistent symptoms up to 9 months after infection

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OAK CREEK, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Doctors say symptoms for ‘long Covid’ may last weeks, even months, but medical researchers recently found nearly a third of people still had persistent long Covid symptoms up to nine months after the infection -- that’s almost a full year.

The data published Friday is catching the attention of area doctors. They say the numbers are jarring, because it’s much higher than what they’ve seen with earlier studies.

“This report where you’ve got 30-percent of people that are lasting up to 9 months is quite striking,” said Dr. Erin O’Tool, family medicine physician at Ascension Medical Group Oak Creek.

The research posted on JAMA Network shows nearly 85-percent of participants only had mild Covid illness at first. The most common symptoms of long Covid observed were fatigue, loss of taste and smell and brain fog.

“It’s sort of a debilitating fatigue that prevents one from returning to their baseline function level,” said Dr. Aurora Pop-Vicas, infectious disease specialist at UW Health.

“I think some people have pointed the long-haul phenomenon as like a second pandemic,” said Dr. O’Tool.

So far more than 28 million cases of Covid have been reported in the U.S., but doctors say even if only a small percentage of people have long Covid, it’s still a massive number that could produce hefty consequences.

The health care impacts are significant with just the cost of evaluations and management, but the economic implications of people missing work are, I think, astounding,” Dr. O’Tool adds.

Long Covid has also fueled clinics to pop up all over the country.

According to Survivor Corps, a grassroots nonprofit organization for ending the pandemic, 32 states now have post-Covid clinics, including two in Wisconsin. One is at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin and the other at Ascension Medical Group in Oak Creek, which Dr. O’Tool leads.

“We try to get people taken care of, because a lot of people are suffering from symptoms that they weren’t expecting after that acute phase,” Dr. O’Tool says.

Doctors say there’s still a lot to learn from long Covid, but more resources are being put into solving why this phenomenon is happening.

“There’s a lot of studies that I suspect will come out in the next few months to a year,” said Dr. Pop-Vicas.

“We’ve only been dealing with it for a little bit over a year and so the evolution is happening right in front of our eyes,” adds Dr. O’Tool. “We’re learning as we go.”

While there is no magic pill or specific protocol to treat long Covid just yet, Dr. O’Tool says it’s important to seek medical help, because there are treatments available to remedy various symptoms people with long Covid may have.

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