HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — As the United States continues to see record numbers of COVID-19 cases, doctors at the University of Alabama Birmingham are moving to new fronts in the battle against the virus.
UAB is creating a post-COVID clinic after encountering a number of patients experiencing serious effects from the virus — even though the patients are no longer infectious.
Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of UAB’s division of infectious diseases, says references to COVID-19 recovery rates of 90 percent or so don’t capture the full picture of what’s going on.
“People – including very young people, including people who did not have asthma or emphysema before – continue to experience a sense of breathlessness,” she said. “They just can’t catch their breath, they feel short of breath, that creates anxiety, sometimes they even get palpitations, and when you look at their chest X-rays and their oxygen levels, by their oxygen saturation, they’re actually normal, so what’s driving this we really don’t understand.”
They’re seeing cardiac cases, including chest pains and heart inflammation. Patients also report fogged thinking.
“The brain issue is a big thing. There is a feeling for some people they just can’t concentrate, they can’t really get back to work,” Marrazzo said. “We’ve seen frankly young people with demanding jobs not able to get back to their jobs two or three months after COVID.”
And the lingering problems are striking otherwise healthy people.
“Then I would say the last big thing is fatigue,” she said. “So this chronic fatigue syndrome-like syndrome has been really prominent for several people. And you’re right, this is not just people who were limited in their function pre-COVID. These are people who were highly functional in jobs.”