Hank Investigates: COVID long-haulers

They say they got COVID, eventually tested negative for the virus, but their symptoms remain. Hank Investigates what’s going on and what’s being done to help struggling patients.

Monique spent days in the hospital fighting for her life.

“You don’t know if you’re going to survive,” Monique says.

She had COVID and at times she couldn’t breathe.

“It was a really scary thing,” Monique says.

She ended up with pneumonia. Now almost a year later, walking down the street, going up stairs, even trying to do schoolwork is still a struggle.

“It’s very overwhelming,” Monique says.

Monique says she has trouble concentrating and trying to remember things.

She had to drop out of college and cut back at work.

“I still have the muscle pain; I still have the fatigue. I still have some breathing problems. I still have headaches and they are the worst headaches that I’ve ever had in my life,” Monique says.

There are tens of thousands of people in the U.S. who like Monique are still battling to get better weeks, sometimes months after contracting the virus. They’re called COVID long haulers.

Celtics’ star Jayson Tatum is one. He says he’s still feeling the effects after testing positive for the virus at the start of the year.

“You get fatigued a lot quicker than normal. You know, running up and down the court a few times, it’s easier to get out of breath or get tired a lot faster I noticed that since I’ve had COVID,” Jayson says.

Doctors at Brigham and Women’s hospital are treating long-haul patients.

“Is there anything that can be done to help?” Hank asks.

“We don’t understand it as well as we understand the acute infection and that’s actually what’s causing those symptoms, it makes it harder to treat,” Walker Redd, M.D. from Brigham and Women’s Hospital says. “The general guess is that this is continued inflammation in a general sense. And so, a lot of those symptoms that you get from a viral infection in the short term, linger and last as the inflammation itself continues.”

Other medical teams at the hospital plan to use MRIs and additional imaging to investigate what might be causing the concentration and memory issues some describe. They also want to understand how the virus affects the heart and lungs.

A pill studied at this Miami hospital could help.

It’s called Ifenprodil and experts say it shows promise reducing lung inflammation and scarring in critically ill COVID patients.

Now the drug’s maker may investigate whether the pill could be used to treat long haul patients.

“There is a potential for us to do additional research to see can it help people who are on their way to recovery but are still struggling and suffering. Can we help with the healing process in their lungs?” Christopher J. Moreau, the CEO of Algernon Pharmaceuticals tells 7 News.

For now, Monique is using an asthma inhaler to breathe more easily.

And she’s hopeful she’ll start to improve with physical therapy.

But she worries there’s still so much doctors don’t know.

“My life hasn’t been the same and I don’t know if it will be the same,” Monique says.

The CDC says even COVID patients who have mild illness can experience long haul symptoms. Doctors say if that is happening to you don’t ignore it. Reach out to your physician.

For more information:

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institutes of Health launches new study

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