One-third of sickest COVID-19 patients in Colorado Springs area have had “long-haul” symptoms, study from UCHealth

Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 7:47 AM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Around one-third of the sickest COVID-19 patients in the UCHealth system in the Colorado Springs area have had “long-haul” symptoms, according to studies at UCHealth.

Long-haulers are known as people recovering from COVID-19, but still have symptoms long after getting the virus. Some, lasting even weeks or months.

“This new subset of patients that we’re discovering, that has this long-haul journey, unfortunately is particularly disturbing as a physicians because our patients aren’t recovering in the way that we would expect,” said Dr. Robert Lam of UCHealth.

At the start of the pandemic, CU medical students based in Colorado Springs were taken out of clinical rotations because of COVID-19 infectious concerns, and lack of PPE. But, medical staff still wanted students to learn during the pandemic.

Officials at UCHealth started a COVID-19 follow-up study, where students interviewed every single COVID-19 patient that was hospitalized at any UCHealth facility from March to September. They studied their hospital experience, medications and their transition back into the community.

In the Colorado Springs area specifically, the study found around 35 percent of the sickest patients (those hospitalized, some in the ICU on a ventilator) had these long-haul symptoms long after getting the virus.

“Most people have symptoms for 2 weeks or less so seeing this group of patients that are having symptoms 6 weeks or even 6 months after the illness was a bit of a red flag for us,” said Lam.

The most common long-haul symptoms the study found were headaches, difficulty sleeping, “brain fog” with having difficulty focusing, as well as problems with shortness of breath and problems being able to exercise.

“COVID really is a mysterious illness. There’s still a number of patients that describe their experience starting with a mild illness, and then those are patients that are otherwise healthy, they’ll still go on to have COVID long-haul symptoms in the long term,” said Lam.

Recovering from COVID-19 can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health, as well. UCHealth started a support group for patients, as recovering can be an isolating experience.

“There is a lot of fear about reintegrating back into your groups so we hope to create communities around patients that are recovering from COVID-19 so they can start recovering together,” said Lam.

For more information this study, click here.

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