I-Team: Why some may suffer permanently from COVID-19


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Springfield pulmonologist Dr. Paul Salva is still seeing COVID-19 patients months after their initial diagnosis.

Those patients of his are dealing with what he calls “long-haul symptoms”, including fatigue and breathing difficulties, complications he knows, some will never be able to fully break free of.

“We don’t know if everyone is going to get back to the way they were, pre-covid,” said Dr. Salva.
“There will be some folks who won’t get back to the way they were, which is very disheartening to tell anybody nevermind a teenager. The longer it takes to recover, the less likely you’re going to recover.”

According to a new study, nearly a third of COVID-19 patients reported persistent symptoms, as long as nine months after getting covid. And it could take up to three months before seeing any long-haul symptoms, after first getting sick.

“They have these ongoing symptoms, so called long-haulers,” said Dr. Daniel Skiest, Vice Chair of the Department of Medicine for Baystate Health. “Brain fog, they are forgetful, they have trouble thinking about things, fatigue, insomnia, some have a fast heart race, they get dizzy.”

There’s also been reports of lung scarring and heart damage for long-haulers. Dr. Skiest said research is being done to find out why this virus affects people for so long.

“We don’t know what exactly is causing it like most viruses, we do know the virus is no longer active in these patients,” said Dr. Skiest.

This virus can be especially problematic for athletes who need to be well-conditioned to sustain an optimal level in cardio intensive sports like tennis. The 22News I-Team went to Western New England University found out what the road to recovery is like for young athletes that had covid.

“It can hit multiple systems within the body, cardiovascular, neurological, respiratory, you name it, said Mike Vallee, Head Athletic Trainer for Western New England University.

Vallee said an athlete suffering from long-haul symptoms would have to undergo a slow-gradual training plan, that would be under their supervision.

“Some of the different organizations recommend starting at 25 percent of your initial full capacity to see how you’re able to respond,” explained Vallee. “The recommendation is to increase that by 10 percent each week.”

Its required that covid-infected athletes wait 3 weeks after testing negative to resume training, and get back to competitive play. COVID-19 brain fog, a condition which inhibits the ability to focus, may also really affect their confidence.

Dr. Salva said “Is it affecting athletic performance, absolutely. Its affecting activities of daily living, these are perfectly vibrant teenagers, they are having trouble climbing a flight of stairs. That shouldn’t be.”

Another issue for long-haulers: the delta variant and what a reinfection would mean for them.

“What does it do to someone who already had covid, but get reinfected with the variant, what’s it going to happen with them? The answer is no one knows,” said Dr. Salva. “At the end of the day the results left on the table, will tell us what’s happened.”

Just this week, President Joe Biden announced that covid-19 long haulers can qualify as a disability under the American with Disabilities Act. It comes more than a year after the first covid-19 outbreaks began.

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