Investigating ‘long haulers’: Some with COVID-19 dealing with symptoms for weeks, months

Some Minnesotans who have recovered from COVID-19 experience lingering symptoms, weeks or even months later.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is studying the so-called "long haulers" and the ongoing health issues many face.

"You want the doctors to help you through it but they don’t know what’s going on," said Stephanie Herron, from the North Metro.

Herron tested positive for COVID-19 on July 4 and said she experienced flu-like symptoms for the first week and a half, including nausea and loss of appetite.

But she said she’s been dealing with new, unexplained health problems ever since, for more than 50 days.

"I have tingly feet and swelling. I still have the fatigue and the tiredness, especially at night," she said. "My hair falling out, too. It’s like I brush my hair and clumps of hair will come out. And the twitching! My eyes have twitched since I’ve been on the phone with you. My eyes have been twitching. My mouth twitches when I’m talking."

The CDC recently shared results of a multistate survey of people who had recovered from COVID-19, reporting, "35% had not returned to their usual state of health when interviewed 2–3 weeks after testing. Among persons aged 18–34 years with no chronic medical conditions, one in five had not returned to their usual state of health."

The agency pointed out that is different from the flu, where more than 90% of people are back to full health within two weeks.

Full COVID-19 coverage from KSTP

The CDC said the most common lingering symptoms for those who tested positive for COVID-19 were fatigue, cough and congestion. And interestingly, most of those patients were otherwise young and healthy.

"This virus is very elusive and it has behaviors we don’t fully understand," said KSTP Health Expert Dr. Archelle Georgiou. "You could have a really mild case and have all of these symptoms. That’s why this is so strange."

Dr. Georgiou said the virus has also been shown to directly infect the brain.

"Over half the people that have recovered from COVID have very small but visible changes in their brain," Dr. Georgiou said.

Herron said her experience with COVID-19 has been frustrating and scary.

"I just take it day-by-day," she said. "I pray and I hope that somebody will find a cure or help for the long haulers, too."