As the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. appears to be turning a corner, another health crisis is brewing: Covid-19 survivors struggling to bounce back to their former selves. Of the more than 28 million Americans diagnosed with Covid-19, an estimated 10 to 30 percent — possibly as many as 8.4 million people — fall into the category commonly known as “long-haulers.”
Despite the staggering numbers, there’s no clear diagnosis, no standard care and no national guidelines for how these patients should be treated. There are hopeful signs, however. At special clinics around the country, a better understanding of the condition is emerging, according to a new analysis by NBC News.
NBC News identified more than 80 “post-Covid” clinics nationwide that are actively engaging with Covid-19 patients who continue to have symptoms months after their acute infection cleared. The 64 clinics surveyed by NBC News have seen nearly 10,000 patients — most likely just a sliver of the true number of people affected by a condition only recently given a name by the National Institutes of Health: “Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection,” or PASC. Millions of others may be seeking care with a personal physician or suffering alone.
Patients at the 64 clinics are men and women of all ages. Some had to be hospitalized with Covid-19, while many others never became that sick during their acute infection. The majority are coping with a wide range of lingering symptoms, including life-altering fatigue, ongoing shortness of breath, headaches, even hair loss.