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More research needed to understand COVID-19 long haulers, lasting mental health impacts

Doctors say COVID-19 long haulers may find relief in vaccination

AdventHealth doctors share insights on virus long haulers
AdventHealth doctors share insights on virus long haulers

Doctors with AdventHealth Orlando are sharing their insight on the so-called COVID-19 long haulers, people who are still experiencing symptoms weeks and even months after testing positive.

Dr. Cynthia Gries, medical director of Advent Health’s lung transplant program said long-hauler patients may also experience other adverse side effects including survivor’s guilt, depression and other mental health issues.

She said there are still many questions.

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“Why do some people get so sick and some don’t? I think that’s something that none of us quite understand,” Gries said.

Long-haulers are defined as patients who are still having symptoms more than three weeks after their initial diagnosis. Symptoms can include headache, fatigue, brain fog and shortness of breath.

She also encouraged long haulers to consider getting the vaccine but to wait for three months post-COVID.

“There are some people who reported getting the vaccine actually helped them feel better,” Gries said.

People with mild to severe cases of the virus can become long-haulers, according to AdventHealth.

Rachel Caputo, 34, of Orlando said she still can’t believe her COVID-19 infection from last summer would leave her suffering this long.

“This virus has completely changed my life. It was like I went to bed healthy and woke up in somebody’s else body,” Caputo said.

She said her family has been her support system, after almost a daily cycle of memory loss, joint pain, fatigue and more. She was infected in June 2020 and is still having symptoms.

“My bloodwork has always been perfect. I’ve always taken very good care of my body, and this really can happen to anybody,” Caputo said.

Caputo said she got the vaccine a few weeks ago but still has regular pain. She joined a group out of California to analyze her blood hoping to get her more answers.

Dr. Dexter Hadley from the University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine is now doing research and recruiting COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized to better understand how the virus impacts the lungs using X-rays.

“We have to have real data coming in and have informed consent, and that is really what is missing here,” Hadley explained.

More information about the study is available here.


About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.