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Young San Diego COVID-19 long-haulers still sick months after testing positive

Posted at 5:11 PM, Dec 15, 2020

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A growing number of young San Diegans are still having symptoms several weeks or months after getting COVID-19. At UC San Diego, doctors are tracking and treating these so called long-haulers.

Some health experts are now saying that the long-haul patient population may become a public health crisis of its own.

When Jennica Harris in San Marcos got the coronavirus in March, she expected to bounce right back. Yet, weeks turned into months.

“I'm 33 and healthy and young. [I work] out. [I] worked out while I was pregnant [with] lifting weights. High intensity workouts and here I am [with] this slew of doctors that I have to go see and try to figure out why my [heart rate] is so high. I can’t move from the couch and I can’t breathe two months after, three months, and four months after [getting COVID-19],” she told ABC10 News on Tuesday.

Nine months after testing positive, the mother of two still battles severe shortness of breath. She's considered a long-hauler, one of the growing number of post-COVID-19 patients who suffer long after testing positive. “I was so angry for so long because I would see people outside partying when I could barely walk two feet to my window,” she added.

“We already have several dozen patients and we're starting to get in outside referrals,” said UC San Diego’s Dr. Lucy Horton on Tuesday.

She’s working with a team of specialists to treat local long-haulers. Many are in their 20s, 30s and 40s with no underlying conditions and many were never sick enough to be hospitalized when they first got the virus.

Dr. Horton told ABC10 News that the cause of ongoing symptoms remains unclear. She said that it could be an auto-immune or overactive inflammatory response but there’s no one treatment available. She added that many of her patients have been ill for months.

“What's really challenging as a physician in this situation is that we honestly don't know so when patients ask me, ‘Am I going to be sick for the rest of my life?’ I don't know if they’re going to be sick for the rest of their life,” she told ABC10 News.

Dr. Horton and Harris encourage young people to continue taking virus safety measures seriously. “I just say that the decisions you make, make sure that you can live with those decisions,” added Harris.