In April 2021, doctors at Huntington Hospital established a Long COVID Recovery Clinic for patients experiencing disruptive post-COVID conditions.
At the LCRC, as it is called, patients were not only treated but were also given the opportunity to participate in research projects about long COVID — known as post acute sequelae COVID (PASC).
Nearly two years after the LCRC was established, Dr. Kimberly Shriner, the hospital’s top infectious disease expert, said it is still not clear what causes the disease.
“The challenge with long Covid is that we’re just trying to begin to understand what causes the disease. That is still not clear.”
“It may be one thing, it may be many things. But there’s no question that there is something going on with the immune system and inflammation. And we’re concerned that some of this is going to be challenging going forward to identify the problems so that we can also identify therapies for intervention.”
Despite not knowing the causes of the disease as of yet, Shriner reported that the clinic has been very successful in terms of patient satisfaction.
Currently, over 60 patients are enrolled at the LCRC.
Shiriner said most of the long COVID patients at the LCRC are people who experienced more severe forms of COVID delta variant and alpha variant.
Some patients were fully vaccinated but got COVID and later developed symptoms of long COVID.
The patients were lauded for being at the frontline on the study about long COVID.
“Their candor and their courage, and their understanding that this is going to be a long haul, to put it mildly, is really remarkable,” Shriner remarked.
According to Shiner, to date, what researchers know so far is that all of the variants of COVID can cause long COVID.
She also said long COVID is more common in women than in men and that people with underlying medical conditions are more likely to develop the disease.
“It may occur more commonly in people who have other diseases such as diabetes or autoimmune diseases. It may occur more commonly in people who had very severe disease at the time of their initial COVID infection.”
While the studies are still ongoing, Shriner noted there are positive developments so far.
There are ongoing clinical trials as pharmaceutical companies develop what could be the cure for long COVID.
She believes that to be successful in developing treatments, experts should come together to identify what causes the disease and what would be the best treatments.
“Science and medicine have to come together with the patient population and say: ‘hey, I saw this in a patient with long COVID and this came to help, or these kinds of exercises seem to help, or those didn’t help and made things worse’.”
According to Shriner, up to 30% of individuals who have acute COVID may develop symptoms of PASC, which include debilitating fatigue, neurocognitive changes including memory loss and brain fog and cardiac issues such as palpitations and chest pain.
Asked if LCRC will be a mainstay at Huntington Hospital going forward, Shriner said she hopes so, believing that there are more patients out there who are experiencing long COVID.
“I worry that there are large numbers of individuals that have symptoms with long COVID. They maybe don’t understand why they’re still feeling so terrible after they recover, and they just go back to work to feed their family.”
“They must understand that this clinic is free, and then after that we can make arrangements so that everybody doesn’t have to pay out of pocket for the clinic.”
With a doctor’s referral, patients can make an appointment at Huntington Hospital’s Long COVID Recovery Clinic at (626) 397-8410.
According to Huntington Hospital’s website, COVID vaccines and boosters reduce the risk of long COVID by lowering the chances of contracting the virus in the first place.
To learn more about long COVID, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects/index.html