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UofL researchers examine COVID-19 survivors with lingering symptoms to improve treatment

"It's almost as if every person that has been touched by COVID-19 has some type of remaining impact."

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Surviving COVID-19 doesn't always mean the end of its impact. The University of Louisville is trying to figure out why some people continue to deal with long-term symptoms of the virus in a new research clinic.

"COVID-19 is not a democratic or republican issue...it's a humanitarian issue," said Dale Josey, a long-hauler who contracted the virus in 2020.

Josey said he battled fatigue, painful headaches and joints, loss of taste and more while sick. Even after surviving, Josey is navigating some health changes. For example, he wears a bandana or scarf around his neck to protect from the cold.

"It's because if I walk into a building that's cool or if I get into an environment that's cool I instantly freeze," Josey said. "And so to avoid that...I wear [the scarf] so I can stay warm."

Another change he's dealing with is eating some of his favorite meals. 

"Had a beef roast a few weeks ago — my wife makes a perfect beef roast, but the beef was so overwhelming that I could not get through it," Josey said. 

The University of Louisville's Post COVID-19 Research Clinic is trying to understand the kind of things Josey is experiencing by examining COVID-19 survivors who are dealing with short and long-term effects. Josey is one of 50 participants. 

"We're seeing a full spectrum of these presentations and I think that is what's so concerning because it's almost as if every person that has been touched by COVID has some type of remaining impact," said UofL's Ruth Carrico, one of the researchers who examine long-haulers. 

The clinic is not meant to just recognize the symptoms, but help doctors improve treatment. Some of those post-COVID symptoms are fatigue, blood clotting issues, hair loss, muscle/joint pain and intense migraines. 

"Now we're learning more of what we need to be looking for," Carrico said. "What are some very specific things that are of particular interest, because they are presenting the biggest problem."

Researchers are studying the participants' health history and the changes they experience after getting the virus. The long-haulers go through lung function tests, health assessments and provide blood and urine samples at each visit. 

Josey is fully vaccinated and shared this message with people who are hesitant or skeptical about the vaccine: "Why not show compassion and concern for others by doing a small part simply taking the vaccine just like the flu?"

To participate or learn more about University of Louisville's Post COVID-19 Research Clinic, click here.

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