'Long COVID' impacting patients who never tested positive for coronavirus

Posted at 1:45 PM, Apr 13, 2021

BALTIMORE — Months after their COVID-19 infections, patients are experiencing what’s known as 'Long COVID,' but now some are seeking treatment who never tested positive or got sick.

"My heart goes out to these patients who are just human beings trying to make sense of their symptoms," said Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a lung doctor at Johns Hopkins.

Galiatsatos, known as Dr. G, works at the Post-Acute COVID-19 Clinic at Hopkins. Since last May, they’ve seen hundreds of patients. Most are experiencing ongoing symptoms after a battle with COVID-19, but some never knew they had COVID and have been sick for months with no answers.

"They [patients] are like, 'I didn’t feel well. It wasn’t horrible and it didn’t send me to the hospital. I just didn’t feel well. And it just felt like the bad flu or a bad cold'," said Dr. G.

They didn’t test positive for COVID either due to lack of access to testing, lack of symptoms, or a false negative result.

"Then they kind of speak to I’ve never felt the same way again," said Dr. G.

Experts don’t yet know what causes long COVID or why some people have persistent symptoms while others recover.

As the CDC investigates the full spectrum of COVID, including long-term effects, Post-Acute COVID Care Clinics are being established at medical centers across the country, bringing together multidisciplinary teams to provide a comprehensive treatment approach COVID-19 aftercare.

"The multidisciplinary approach catches what certain physicians would miss, so you get psychology, psychiatry, physical medicine, and rehabilitation," said Dr. G.

In some cases, a positive test result isn’t vital to get help, so Dr. G says be your own advocate.

"If you’re sitting there struggling with symptoms that you’re finding your health care professional is struggling to put them together, ask to investigate if this could be post-COVID-19 through some simple blood work testing," said Dr. G.

Antibody testing could show what’s been missed all along, that patients once had COVID and are now suffering from 'Long COVID.'

"It’s a breath of fresh air because it’s some understanding of why they are here and as one of my patients said, 'It’s not all in my head'," said Dr. G.

A physician referral is required for an appointment in the JH clinic. For more information about the requirements, click here.

Abby Isaacs at WMAR first reported this story.