Understanding ‘long COVID’: Some patients still experience symptoms months later

Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 3:43 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2021 at 6:43 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A year after getting COVID-19, Governor Ralph Northam said on Monday that he still can’t taste or smell anything; medical experts say this condition of lasting symptoms is sometimes called “long COVID.”

“A year later, I still can’t smell anything. I can’t taste anything,” said Northam, who was reportedly asymptomatic back in 2020.

These long-term effects, also called “long-haul COVID” and “chronic COVID,” are a condition on their own.

“It’s really an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of new, recurring, or persistent health issues people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected,” said Dr. Lisa Thanjan with the Virginia Department of Health.

She adds that the data shows the condition is more common among women, with a broad range of symptoms - some of which are the familiar COVID-19 symptoms, like fever or a cough. Other symptoms show in a different capacity, such as “brain fog or difficulty thinking, mood changes, sleep problems.”

People with long COVID can end up back in the hospital based on their specific symptoms, but since it is totally separate from acute infection, some symptoms may not be as severe.

“Most long COVID conditions can be diagnosed and managed by a primary care provider, but some individuals can benefit from an interdisciplinary team that can maximize their recovery,” said. Dr. Thanjan.

According to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R), which tracks reported long COVID cases in the US, 12.6 million people have it, including 250,000 in the Commonwealth.

“Long COVID can be frustrating to deal with. Individuals with previous COVID-19 infection should also get vaccinated to prevent reinfection,” added Dr. Thanjan.

VDH has a full list of reported symptoms of long COVID, with information from the CDC, plus a link to the case tracker by AAPM&R.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

Send it to 12 here.

Want NBC12’s top stories in your inbox each morning? Subscribe here.