A new clinic at UNC is working to help COVID-19 survivors experiencing persistent symptoms recover while gathering data about the long term effects of the virus.
Most people who have had COVID-19 recover completely within a few weeks, however, some people continue to experience symptoms long after their initial recovery.
This condition is known as post-COVID-19 syndrome or Long COVID.
“A lot of COVID survivors are actually experiencing lingering effects for weeks or months after the resolution of their initial infection or after their diagnosis,” said Dr. John Baratta, co-medical director of the UNC COVID Recovery Clinic.
In the U.S., where more than 30 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, Baratta said about 30 percent of COVID survivors experience continued health issues between three to nine months after their infection.
“So, this is a really substantial percentage of people who are experiencing ongoing effects,” Baratta said.
A lot of the symptoms people with Long COVID may face are similar to those experienced during initial infection.
“These include things like fatigue and shortness of breath, but there are others – and the cases seem to be really variable,” Baratta said. “Different people get affected in quite different ways.”
Baratta said, outside of fatigue and shortness of breath, the most common Long COVID symptoms his practice sees are headaches, hair loss, anxiety, depression, and what is known as “brain fog.”
“For many people it refers to difficulties with memory and attention,” Baratta said.
To address these ongoing symptoms, UNC’s COVID Recovery Clinic provides a variety of treatments specifically tailored to each patient. Baratta said these treatments could include prescribing a home-exercise program and physical therapy to combat fatigue or offering cognitive rehabilitation through a speech-therapy specialist to combat brain fog.
While currently accepting internal referrals for initial visits, Baratta expects the clinic will be fully operational this May.
For more information on UNC’s COVID Recovery Clinic, click here.
Lead photo via UNC/Megan May.
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