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COVID-19 survivors are dealing with chronic illnesses and doctors do not know when, or if, they will go away

Survivors with long-term side effects are called 'long haulers' and have been dealing with medical issues since their COVID diagnosis.

TAMPA, Fla. — For some COVID-19 survivors, the fight is not over even after they test negative for the virus. Some are able to survive the virus, and then weeks, and months later, still suffer from side effects.

For Rachel Taback, she has been fighting since June 27 when she started to feel COVID-19 symptoms. It wasn't until nearly three weeks later that she went to the emergency room for the first time. 

“I got to a point where I was like, I this is not going away. The shortness of breath started coming," Taback said.

Since then, Taback has been to the hospital a total of three times and has been to the Mayo Clinic to seek help twice.

“It's frustrating because they don't have the answers and I'm not frustrated with the doctors. The doctors are just as frustrated as we are. It's the issue of the unknown," explained Taback.

She is dealing with the long-term effects of COVID-19. She is one of the "long haulers," patients who continue to have side effects for weeks or months after passing the virus. The chronic nature of the side effects is draining, but what is even more concerning, is that doctors don't know when, or if, these people will ever fully recover. 

“My heart truly goes out to these people," said infectious disease expert, Dr. John Sinnot. "In a way, they cheated death, and then get stuck with illnesses that we don't understand. We don't really know how to treat except symptomatically. And we don't know why they're having these problems.”

Dr. Sinnot believes that around 10 to 15 percent of COVID-19 survivors are experiencing some variation of long term side effects. For Taback, her side effects include daily migraines, extreme fatigue, mental fogginess, sore throat, and nausea.

She tries to keep a positive attitude and journals to help keep herself grounded. She has also found support and advice from Facebook groups with survivors dealing with similar issues, just like her.

With no sign of when Taback, or the other hundreds of thousands of people, will get better, there is a hope that more medical attention and research will be put towards helping them.

“Hopefully, we'll be able to take our COVID confirmed clinic, and convert it into a long term care clinic," Dr. Sinnot said. "That way we'll be able to search for ways to reduce suffering.”

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