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COVID-19 Update: What we are learning about long Covid

COVID-19 Update: What we are learning about long Covid
May 17 2022

A year ago, Huntington Health, in partnership with Huntington Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and San Diego Biomedical Research Institute, launched its Long COVID-19 Recovery Clinic for patients experiencing disruptive post-COVID conditions. Led by Kimberly Shriner, MD, medical director of infection prevention and control at Huntington Health, the clinic leverages multidisciplinary teams to provide comprehensive treatment and study the symptoms of long COVID-19. Dr. Shriner recently shared some of the clinic’s findings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines post-COVID conditions as “a wide range of new, returning or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus” and includes a long list of possible symptoms: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, fatigue, brain fog, cough, chest or stomach pain, headache, heart palpitations, joint or muscle pain, diarrhea, insomnia, fever, lightheadedness, rash, mood changes, depression, change in smell or taste, changes in menstrual cycle, and multiorgan effects, including heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain functions. Symptoms can present themselves post-COVID-19 even if the initial illness was mild or asymptomatic. Because these symptoms can be greatly debilitating, long COVID can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Understanding the causes and effects of long COVID is essential to developing effective therapies. Potential causes and risks for long COVID, include immune disorders (e.g., the body cannot control or restrain an immune response), chronic inflammation, COVID-19’s interaction with pre-existing viruses (e.g., HIV or HSV), genetic factors and comorbidities.

Also, the effect long COVID has on the brain, such as acute and chronic inflammation, myelin loss, neuronal deterioration, white and gray matter changes and hippocampal volume loss. Additionally, there’s evidence that the circulatory system of long COVID patients can exhibit blood clotting disorders, such as clotting too much or too little, or micro-blood clotting in blood vessels.

This research is important because it points to possible treatments for long COVID. Dr. Shriner states that several therapies that could play a role in treating long COVID, such as anti-inflammatory medications, vaccines, antiviral medications, prophylactic medications, blood thinners and monoclonal antibody therapy. 

But there is still much to learn about long COVID, which can occur in up to 30-40% of COVID-19 survivors. Recognizing the global health impacts of long COVID, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has designated 1.5 billion to research.

As research continues to uncover the causes behind long COVID, Huntington Hospital’s Long COVID-19 Recovery Clinic will continue to provide the latest, comprehensive, specialized care to manage the spectrum of long COVID symptoms. A team of specialists—cardiologists, neurologists, behavioral health experts, rheumatologists and more—is dedicated to helping patients restore their mental, emotional and physical well-being. With a doctor’s referral, patients can make an appointment at the Long COVID Recovery Clinic at (626) 397-8410.

Currently, the best way to avoid long COVID is prevention. COVID-19 vaccines and boosters reduce the risk of long COVID by lowering the chances of contracting COVID-19 in the first place. To learn more about long COVID, go to: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects/index.html