COVID “Long Haulers” seeing symptoms months after infection

Local News

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – It’s been more than a year since the Coronavirus was first declared a pandemic, and many in Arkansas are still feeling the effects of the virus.

From the peak of the pandemic to this week’s low numbers, Baptist Health Medical Center, North Little Rock CMO Stan Kellar has seen it all.

“It was really bad August through 6 weeks ago,” Dr. Kellar explained, “and then the numbers started plummeting.”

His team has worked tirelessly through COVID-19, watching as the hospital ICU filled up with sick patients, and then steadily emptied out. But just because numbers are down doesn’t mean the disease is over. 

As Kellar explains, there are patients who are still seeing effects from the virus, months after their initial diagnosis.

“We still think of acute COVID as under four weeks,” Kellar explained. “There’s this intermediate four weeks to twelve weeks of persistent symptoms, and then the long haulers are over twelve weeks.”

These so called “long haulers” are those with lasting symptoms following their fight with COVID. But hospital patients aren’t the only ones experiencing the lingering effects.

Dr. Julea Garner, Residency Program Director for Family Medicine came down with COVID in November of 2020 after months of careful precautions. Now, 5 months later, she’s still seeing the effects. 

“I’m followed by a cardiologist now for the heart issues that have developed,” Garner said. “I’ve had some issues with my vision, and I’m followed by an ophthalmologist.”

She adds that the fatigue from the virus also hasn’t gone away, and her energy is often depleted. 

These symptoms are similar to what Dr. Kellar has seen as a lung specialist, including, “persistent cough in some individuals, persistent shortness of breath.”

The need is so great that Baptist Health North Little Rock is planning on opening a post-COVID clinic for those with prolonged symptoms. 

According to Garner, the evolution of this virus proves there’s still much to learn, and that doctors are still learning a lot about how the virus impacts different people.

She adds from someone who’s had COVID and doesn’t want to get it a second time, she has some advice: “Get the vaccine.”

You can learn more about Baptist Health North Little Rock HERE.

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