TAMPA, Fla. — As experts continue to search for answers about how COVID-19 can affect people, they’re focusing their efforts on Long COVID Syndrome, and the lingering effects of the virus.
“Some of it is people who are really just otherwise very healthy people who just have not been able to quite recover fully yet. They are still having decreased lung function and decreased heart function,” said Dr. Jason Wilson, Associate Medical Director of the Emergency Room at Tampa General Hospital.
“Some of the most common symptoms people are reporting are feeling a profound fatigue, and just feeling like they are not able to do their regular activities. There’s also been a substantial number of people that have reported feeling a little foggier, a little less clear and having some difficulty thinking,” said Dr. Andrew Chan, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Experts say so far, the data shows that 15-20% of people who get COVID-19 have long-term symptoms, meaning they have symptoms longer than a month.
One of the only ways researchers are able to study this is by people reporting their symptoms.
“We really want people to volunteer their information because that is what really gives us the ability to answer some of these critical questions about disease that we don’t understand that well,” said Chan.
At the beginning of the pandemic, a ground of researchers, including Chan, created a free smartphone app called COVID Symptom Study so people could track how they’re feeling.
“This COVID Symptoms Study app does allow people to basically input on a regular basis what symptoms you’re experiencing, so this has allowed us to understand what proportion of people are really starting to report these long term symptoms that we think are Long COVID,” said Chan.
He says the data from this app is critical to understand COVID-19 more to help inform doctors and scientists so they can help people recover.
With more than 4 million app users, Chan says they still need more people to participate.
“We particularly need more in areas like the Florida area where we know there are some concerning rises in case numbers and also increasing evidence that variants are taking hold in the state. Understanding more about the symptoms those variants can provoke and also understanding those risks those variants pose in respect to Long COVID will be really important,” said Chan.
Researchers are asking people to join the app study even if they don’t have COVID-19 to help them understand who is at risk, who could develop the virus down the road, and the different patterns in a community.