Chronic fatigue. Weakness. Brain fog.
Most people make a full recovery quickly, but for weeks and sometimes months after recovering from COVID-19, some patients still have these symptoms.
It is not known exactly how many Albertans suffer from a lengthy COVID – when symptoms persist for eight weeks or more. Chester Ho, senior medical director of the Alberta Health Service (AHS) Neuroscience, Rehabilitation and Vision Strategic Clinical Network, estimates that 20% have had the virus.
This number is based on studies in other countries, such as one in the UK which found 37% of people experienced at least one symptom 12 weeks after recovery from COVID.
Ho said the experience can be confusing for people when they have vague symptoms that don’t lead to an easy diagnosis.
“Sometimes when you do a lot of medical tests you don’t find much,” he said. “And so when they hear about our work and what we’re trying to do, they really feel relieved.”
Ho said AHS has supports and resources for those with long-standing COVID – and more are on the way.
There are four specialty referral clinics in Alberta: the Kaye Edmonton Clinic, the Edmonton North PCN, the Peter Lougheed Center, and the Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary.
AHS is working to establish rehabilitation services, which may include physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
Ho said that many symptoms can be managed at home; AHS offers telephone support services as well as online self-management counseling for patients, which range from how to manage their daily activities to dealing with mental health issues resulting from a long COVID.
But he said it’s important for doctors to also know what resources are available.
“We need to educate the public as well as providers about what this disease is and what symptoms people can have.”
AHS plans to launch a full investigation by the end of October to find out more about the long COVID in Alberta.
“We strongly encourage Albertans who receive an invitation to participate in the survey,” said Ho. “It will really help us understand how Albertans are doing and will also give us a lot of information for future planning and support for people with this illness.”