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'Long haulers' battling coronavirus symptoms for weeks, months

'I just feel fatigued, worn out,' Lake Worth woman says
Posted at 4:41 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 19:03:39-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Getting COVID-19 is different for everyone, and it turns out recovering from the virus is just as unpredictable.

There is a population of people who have recovered from the coronavirus but are dealing with lingering symptoms.

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Those patients with symptoms for weeks and months afterward have come to be known as "long haulers," and in some cases are dealing with worse symptoms than when they had the virus.

After testing negative for coronavirus, the patients still feel fatigued, muscle aches, respiratory issues, and in some cases, even anxiety and insomnia.

Scientists and researchers are studying this, but the most puzzling part for them is who it affects.

Dianna Sierra has always been strong but contracted COVID-19 this year.

She grew up doing gymnastics, played sports and last year graduated from the fire academy, but lately, her stamina has been impacted.

JP Errico, CEO of Your Teledocs
Palm Beach County scientist and researcher JP Errico is working with a medical group that is treating patients who have recovered from COVID-19.

"I just can't do what I would do before. I have to stop a lot more," Sierra said.

Doctors call what she's going through Post-COVID-19 Syndrome.

Two months after getting over the coronavirus, the 21-year-old Lake Worth woman started feeling symptoms again, but they were different.

"I just feel fatigued, worn out, my body hurts, and I just don't feel like doing anything," Sierra said.

JP Errico, the CEO of Your TeleDocs, a management service company for the Jasmine Medical Group, said scientists and researchers are studying patients who recovered from COVID-19 but started feeling lingering symptoms.

"It places you in a state where your brain perceives pain and other symptoms, even after those things recede. So your brain is a learning machine, and what it learns to do and what it knows to do is to run a sick program," Errico said.

Doctors say patients can recover from this Post-COVID-19 Syndrome, but the road to recovery is different for everyone.

Sierra said she's going to her doctors, but in the meantime, she is getting up and forcing herself to continue to work out and toward her goal to become a firefighter.

For many, it may feel like there's no end in sight, but doctors and scientists say they have had “long haulers” make a full recovery and eventually be symptom-free again.

"There's everything from medications to supplements to even neuromodulation techniques that can be used that can be very helpful in reprogramming the brain or reteaching the brain that its interpretation of the situation isn't right," Errico said.

Infectious disease consultant Dr. Ramprasad Gopalan said the most puzzling part is that there's no specific age group susceptible to becoming a "long hauler."

"Although we are talking about Post-COVID Syndrome, we should try to make sure we don’t get COVID. [You can take] very simple methods [like] wearing your mask, having safe distance,” Gopalan said.

"You're going to get knocked back down, but as long as you get back up, you're OK," Sierra said.

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