"All of a sudden I couldn't breathe, I had no energy," Flores said. "I think for the first four to five months, I just laid on my couch."
She isn't alone. A new study of COVID-19 data by the Stanford University School of Medicine found roughly 70% of patients hospitalized with moderate or severe disease still suffered from a variety of symptoms months after recovering from their initial infection. Some of the most common complaints included severe fatigue, shortness of breath, and an inability to concentrate, often referred to as "brain fog."
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"So there are symptoms like this that are associated with COVID-19 that don't seem to go away," explains Steven Goodman, MD, PhD, a senior author on the study.
Dr. Goodman and his team analyzed data from a number of previous studies. He says it's far too soon to speculate on a single cause for the symptoms, but he believes they should be looked at as a unique syndrome.
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"So what we don't want is the people with the brain fog and headaches to go to the neurologist, and the people with the heart problems to go to the cardiologist, and the people with the pulmonary problems to go to the pulmonologist. They probably have a common mechanism," he said.
Now, Stanford is also hoping to join a new $1.15 billion study, being launched by the National Institutes of Health. Researchers are hoping to uncover not just the causes of long-haul COVID-19, but potential treatments as well.
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"As COVID-19 patients or long haul patients we don't know the ramifications of this disease- is it going to get better, is it going to stop?" said Flores.
They are questions that patients hope expanded research efforts will be able to answer quickly. The Stanford team identified 84 different symptoms reported by long-haul patients, including cognitive disorders, and the now-familiar loss of smell.
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