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News Channel 3 In-Depth: Long Covid

​​​​​News Channel 3's Peter Daut is taking an in-depth look into what is called Long Covid, a medical phenomenon that is as real and extensive as it is uncertain and unpredictable.

Long Covid can affect multiple systems and organs, including the brain and heart. Clues about the damage and causes are emerging, but right now doctors and researchers are still trying to find answers.

El Paseo Jewelers owners Raju and Jaishri Mehta look perfectly healthy, but the couple is marking two years grappling with the long-term impacts of covid.

"We still suffer from symptoms," Jaishri Mehta said. "The disruption of sleep is terrible, because you'll be up at any time. Some days you sleep well; some days you don't."

The couple endured a severe covid infection back in early 2020. Jaishri, who has an auto-immune disorder, was in the ICU for several days and nearly died. Two years later, both she and her husband have difficulty sleeping.

"I get up at two o'clock or one o'clock and tossing and turning, which never used to happen," Jaishri said. "The disruption of sleep is terrible, because you'll be up at any time. Some days you sleep well, some days you don't."

What was once understood as a respiratory virus has emerged, for many, as an all-out attack on the system.

And that's not their only symptom.

"Chest heaviness, runny nose, you'll have waves of (trim her stumble and cover with me looking concerned) depression. It'll come and go," Raju said. "I still don't have fully smell. I'm having problems smelling like I used to."  

"Are you surprised that two years after contracting covid you're still dealing with the symptoms," Peter Daut said.

Raju answered, "We are surprised, yes, and we are surprised the new strains keep coming. It's not over yet."

What was once understood as a respiratory virus has emerged, for many, as an all-out attack on the system.

After recovering from even a mild initial infection, many covid survivors across all ethnicities and age groups report a number of symptoms, which include persistent exhaustion, memory and concentration problems, depression, headaches, coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, and sleep problems.

Legendary photographer and Rancho Mirage resident Michael Childers also nearly died from COVID-19 and still struggles with breathing, walking and stability.

"It's been two years of trying to come back, but it's always there. It's always there. The ghost of this covid," Childers said.

According to the CDC, about 30 percent of people who survived covid suffer from long COVID, but new research from the University of Michigan reveals the numbers are much higher.

"43 percent of those infected with COVID-19 will experience some form of long covid," said Spencer Haupert, co-lead author at University of Michigan Study. 

Peter said, "43 percent?"

"43 percent. That's our estimate, correct," Haupert said.

"That's nearly half!," Peter said.

"That is nearly half. It's a startling estimate," Haupert said.

Researchers are now trying to figure out why people are impacted for so long with more than a billion federal dollars devoted to studying covid's prolonged health consequences.

"We have potentially hundreds of millions of people that are experiencing this worldwide, and they need support," Haupert said.

Meanwhile, doctors, including Dr. Anil Perumbeti, the ICU medical director at Eisenhower Health, remain focused on managing symptoms.

"Everybody reacts a little bit differently, everybody has a little bit of a different course. The way you start with Covid isn't necessarily how it transpires over the next few months," Perumbeti said.

Doctors say while treatment protocols are under review at this time there are no conclusive recommendations for medication in the treatment of long Covid.

"Is it frustrating for you as a healthcare professional to treat patients, when there's still not a lot of information available about Long Covid?," Peter asked.

"Yeah, absolutely. We try to break down whatever data we can, but beyond that a lot of it is anecdote," Perumbeti replied.

Meanwhile, the Mehtas and Michael Childers are doing what they can to fight off their persistent symptoms including healthy eating and exercise and they have this message to others who are also struggling with long Covid.

"I would recommend that you have a support system of friends, family, there are a lot of health centers here, make sure you're a part of something, because you have to fight so many different things," Jaishri said.

"You have to have a whole team of positive people around you. I couldn't have done this alone," Childres said. "Just keep working at it and do physical therapy and walk, walk, walk. Do whatever you can to turn it around. Your body's been through a lot."

The National Institutes of Health received more than a billion dollars from Congress to study the long-term effects of Covid. More than 200 researchers are currently involved in building a nationwide study population.

For more on that project, and also links to the CDC and University of Michigan's research on long Covid.

For more information, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects/index.html and https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-providers/civil-rights-covid19/guidance-long-covid-disability/index.html

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Peter Daut

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