A group of physicians affiliated with George Washington University launched a COVID-19 recovery clinic for those with long-lasting symptoms.
The physicians at George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates have been caring for COVID-19 patients since the start of the pandemic, but more patients are requesting care for long-term symptoms.
“We set up the clinic to take care of our patients who had been infected with COVID and then we realized that there was this enormous demand from the rest of the community throughout D.C. and Maryland, Virginia, and even spreading to other states and even other countries,” said Dr. Eileen Chang, an assistant professor of medicine at George Washington University. “People have reached out for post-COVID care.”
A physician from the clinic evaluates each patient and connects them with specialists and rehabilitation programs based on their symptoms.
Over the past year, physicians have learned immensely about the virus, but less is known about COVID-19 long-haulers — those whose symptoms persist for months after infection.
“These are the people who initially did not have very severe disease and were told based on the information available at the time that they would recover quickly, and some of them have struggled for months,” said Dr. Hana Akselrod, an infectious disease physician at George Washington University Hospital.
The complications vary, with some experiencing fatigue, persistent headaches, trouble with memory and concentration, as well as damage to the heart and lungs. It can impact their mental health, too.
It could take years before understanding who is most at risk for developing long-term symptoms, Akselrod said.
However, some early trends have emerged.
“You see people in their 20s and people in their 80s,” Akselrod said. “I want to say our average patient is in his or her 40s. Maybe slightly more women. We don’t truly understand why yet.”
As research continues, there are promising stories of dozens of COVID-19 long-haulers who said their symptoms improved after receiving a vaccine. Although the evidence is anecdotal, a formal study is expected.
More information about George Washington University’s clinic will be available at NBC4 and Telemundo 44’s virtual Health & Fitness Expo on Saturday and Sunday. Registration is free.