Researchers at UArizona Health Sciences awarded $7.3M to Study Long COVID

KMSB News 9-10 p.m. recurring
Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 9:26 PM MST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2022 at 9:27 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Millions of people around the world are struggling with Long COVID. Thanks to a $7.3 million grant from the CDC, UArizona Health Sciences will now explore potential solutions for improving the health and well-being of people affected with long COVID across the state.

Researchers are trying to determine what long COVID looks like and how many people across the state are experiencing those symptoms. So far, they’re working with 8,500 people, with a goal of following atleast 1,000 people over the next five years.

“Some people will start having symptoms when they get sick and just never really get better. Other people will have a fairly mild acute infection and recover and then start to have all these other issues they weren’t anticipating,” said Kristen Pogreba Brown, Associate Professor in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the College of Public Health.

Because there are so many unanswered questions surrounding long haul COVID, researchers are hoping not only to figure out what the long term effects are, but how it impacts different age groups and populations.

“We are capitalizing on the existence of the CoVHORT to try to find 1,000 people who are struggling with long COVID and see how it happens over time. How quickly or shortly it evolves. If additional symptoms pop up when they’re suffering,” said Jennifer Andrews, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the College of Medicine Tucson.

And those symptoms look different for everyone.

“Brain fog is one. We’re seeing a lot of neurological changes. Everything from neuropathy to weakness in muscles and other things. Pulmonary is one we’re seeing a lot of, so people who had a lot of lung issues when they got sick are continuing to have those issues. A lot of shortness of breath,” Pogreba Brown said.

We’re told most of the patients struggle with more than one symptom. Leah Vaughan has been struggling for nearly a year with brain fog, trouble sleeping and heart problems.

“I could be driving into work and my heart would start beating and it would go up to about 130 beats per minute just sitting in the car driving. Just walking from the car into work I was out of breath. My hear rate was up as well then and it got to the point where I knew there was something going on,” Vaughan said.

Getting in to see a specialist was not an easy task, and she says she’s now left with more questions than answers.

“The nerves and wondering how and what. Was it the COVID was it the vaccine, what was it and no one can tell you what it was,” Vaughan said.

Pogreba Brown said the same thing is happening to a lot of people.

“People are trying to go to one specialist and then another and then another and that’s extremely frustrating for people and not really efficient in our medical system either so we’re hoping through this study more broadly and partnering with some of our clinical partners to start pulling all of these pieces together to see if there are more syndrome based diagnosis to see what symptoms kind of cluster together,” Pogreba Brown said.

If you’ve had COVID-19 and you experienced symptoms for more than 30-days, you by definition have long COVID.

Other long haulers have a mild case of COVID then experienced new conditions weeks or months later.

If you fall into either category, the researchers want your help.

You can sign up for the study online.