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Alabama’s new program for protracted COVID “long-haul carriers”

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The University of Alabama at Birmingham healthcare system has begun a program for patients with COVID-19 symptoms for more than 3 weeks after diagnosis.

The post-COVID treatment program is not an independent clinic. Instead, it is a referral system that guides patients to professional care based on their symptoms. This is one of the few programs in the country for patients. Sometimes referred to as a “long-distance carrier” The symptoms last for weeks or months after diagnosis.

Dr. Turner Overton, an infectious disease expert at UAB School of Medicine, will lead the post-COVID treatment program. About 90% of coronavirus patients recover completely within a few weeks of diagnosis, Overton said.But about 10 percent of patients are facing Long-term symptoms The range is from dyspnea to chronic fatigue.

“One of the things we’ve found is that there are a small but insubstantial number of people who remain symptomatic weeks or months after the COVID diagnosis,” Overton said. ..

UABCOVID Clinic, which treats patients in the first few weeks of infection, is not well-equipped to treat long-term patients, Overton said. Instead, this program helps guide the patient to a doctor who can help with stubborn symptoms. Specialists in respiratory, cardiology, neurology, psychiatry, and infectious diseases may offer treatment along with other disciplines depending on the needs of the patient.

“It’s challenging because it’s a new illness and we don’t completely know what to do, but we’re learning new things every day,” Overton said.

UAB doctors are already treating people with long-lasting symptoms, Overton said. If 10% of patients suffer from long-term symptoms, there will be at least 20,000 in Alabama, Overton said.

The most common symptom is dyspnea. Some patients suffer from heart damage from COVID-19, while others have complaints related to mood, anxiety, and memory problems. Men are more likely to have COVID-19 complications that require hospitalization, but women are more likely to suffer from long-term symptoms of the virus, Overton said. In addition to helping patients, Overton said doctors participating in the program want to learn more about the virus and its effects on various organs.

The clinic is open to all COVID-19 patients in Alabama, but does not treat contagious people. If you continue to have symptoms 4 weeks after a positive test, you can get a referral from your doctor or call the COVID-19 call center to make an appointment. UAB staff will also follow up on COVID-19 patients 4-6 weeks after treatment or discharge from the medical center.

Overton said he recognized the need for a program when patients with prolonged symptoms began organizing support groups on social media.

Donna Dye, director of outpatient services at UAB Medicine, said patients with long-lasting symptoms often feel frightened as they struggle for answers.

“Because this is important, patients do not feel lonely during this difficult time and know that there are places they can rely on,” Dye said. “Because it’s a little scary. Not a little, it’s very scary to them. Know that we’re here for them, and that we want to help them and learn with them through this. It is very important to have that connection for that. “

You can reach the UAB COVID-19 call center at (205) 975-1881.

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