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A new program will help patients suffering from long-term health effects of COVID-19

red rendering of COVID particles
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Some COVID infections cause lasting symptoms

Launching this week, Intermountain Healthcare’s Long COVID Navigation Program will provide support for patients who continue to experience symptoms for weeks to months after a COVID infection.

Critical Care Physician Dr. Dixie Harris said these symptoms may include fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, coughing, and a racing heart. She said she has been seeing patients with chronic symptoms since late Spring of 2020.

“Many of these patients aren't even hospitalized, do not even have bad infections, but yet they have ongoing symptoms,” Harris said.

In addition, Harris said, many of these patients are young, low-risk individuals. Dr. Ellie Hirshberg, another Critical Care Physician with Intermountain Healthcare, said her experiences have been similar.

“What I've personally seen is a lot of healthy people who don't have pre-existing conditions, a lot of athletes. A lot of fully working individuals who the fatigue and the brain fog is so profound that they're not able to get back to their pre-COVID degrees of activity,” Hirshberg said.

Because Long COVID is not yet well-understood, the Navigation Program aims to connect patients with specialists based on their individual symptom profiles.

“The COVID molecule seems to affect a lot of different organ systems in somewhat unusual ways than what traditional medicine is used to sort of diagnosing. So, the navigator program really was started to try to bring in all of these multi specialties and get the patients to the right place in a quick timeframe,” Hirshberg said.

With the uncertainty surrounding the long-term consequences of COVID infection, self-care and rest are some of the best tools, said Drs. Harris and Hirshberg.

“There's a lot of anxiety and depression in this group of patients. You know, these patients are suffering. And to let them know that we are hearing them we are learning. We're all in this together,” Harris said.

The phone number for the new Intermountain Healthcare Long COVID Navigation Program is 801-408-5888.

Caroline Long is a science reporter at UPR. She is curious about the natural world and passionate about communicating her findings with others. As a PhD student in Biology at Utah State University, she spends most of her time in the lab or at the coyote facility, studying social behavior. In her free time, she enjoys making art, listening to music, and hiking.