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Boosting Protection from Long COVID

December 22, 2022

Throughout the pandemic, most of us have learned the list of telltale symptoms of a COVID-19 infection like the backs of our hands. Symptoms can range from mild ones like a headache or a runny nose to severe ones including shortness of breath and chest pain. But even though none of us can predict the exact symptoms someone might have once they test positive or even if they will have any symptoms at all, some of us might worry about what may come next.

With the approaching holiday season and winter weather, many of us will want to travel or stay warm indoors. With the higher potential of gatherings, it is only natural that cases of COVID-19 would be on the rise. More infections also mean more possible cases of Long COVID.

What is Long COVID?

Some people who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience long-term effects after the acute phase of their infection ends. This is considered Long COVID –  a range of new, returning, or ongoing symptoms that people experience four or more weeks after their COVID-19 initial infection. Long COVID can also be referred to as long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19 and chronic COVID.

Research estimates that up to 1 in 5 people who were infected with COVID-19 develop Long COVID, regardless of whether they were symptomatic during their initial infection. Patient advocates, providers, and researchers are still working to determine the exact mechanisms that cause Long COVID; at the moment, prevention of COVID infection is the only foolproof way to prevent Long COVID.

Test

Treat

AfterCare

Test & Treat supports people with COVID throughout their recovery journey.

Commonly reported Long COVID symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Fever
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Headache
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Dizziness on standing

How does Test & Treat help people with Long COVID?

Having Long COVID can be a stressful experience, and anyone can be affected by it. The Test & Treat Corps AfterCare Program provides essential health and social needs resources for New Yorkers with Long COVID so that they are not alone in their recovery process.

In addition to providing information on Long COVID and guides, AfterCare also provides information and tools, such as a Daily Symptom Tracker. AfterCare’s Navigators are trained to support members who conduct telephonic outreach and connect or refer people with Long COVID to the city and community-based resources that support them in their recovery. Any New Yorker with Long COVID – even if they are asymptomatic – can access tools to help them with mental health, physical health, financial support, as well as resources for community support.

Along with these existing resources, the AfterCare program continues to improve its operations and outreach.

In 2023, AfterCare will begin outreach to the non-TRIE zip codes. To date, AfterCare Navigators have reached out to nearly 400,000 New Yorkers in TRIE zip codes who could have Long COVID or require health and social needs resources.

Until April 30, 2023, AfterCare will provide free roundtrip rides within NYC for all New Yorkers who need to get to their medical appointments. Clients can call the AfterCare hotline (212-268-4319 and press 4) to speak with an AfterCare Navigator and set up their rides.

The program has also reintroduced the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) as a resource for clients. Managing diabetes can be therapeutic and important part of COVID recovery.

Provider education has been a vital part of ensuring that patients with Long COVID get the care they need to recover, and are comfortable speaking to their primary care providers about their recovery. AfterCare will continue its efforts to work with Health + Hospitals providers and share relevant information (such as a provider tipsheet) about treating patients with Long COVID.

With a new upcoming resource guide and more comprehensive resource training, the AfterCare Navigators will be prepared to share the most helpful resources for New Yorkers with Long COVID.

How can you protect yourself from Long COVID?

The best way to prevent yourself from being at risk for Long COVID is to protect yourself and others from becoming infected or getting severe illness at all. Getting vaccinated and staying up to date with available vaccines against COVID-19 can help prevent more infections from occurring and protect against severe illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and become infected may also be at higher risk of developing symptoms of Long COVID compared to people who were vaccinated and had breakthrough infections.

Long COVID symptoms are more often found in people who had severe COVID-19 illness. However, anyone who has been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can have symptoms, even people who had a mild illness or no symptoms from COVID-19.

Vaccines and boosters that protect against COVID-19 are available for everyone ages 6 months and older. Updated COVID-19 vaccine boosters (also called bivalent boosters) that specifically target Omicron and its subvariants are now offered.

The updated Pfizer booster is recommended for everyone 5 years and older. Children 6 months to 4 years who received the Pfizer primary series are not eligible for a booster dose at this time. However, people in this age group that have not received all three doses of the Pfizer primary series will now receive a bivalent shot for their third dose.

The updated Moderna booster is for everyone 6 months and older. Bivalent boosters from Moderna are available to anyone who received their last dose two months previously.

Boosters are available to anyone regardless of which kind of primary series or booster vaccination they had received first.

Call 877-VAX4NYC (877-829-4692) to find a vaccination site and see additional information on COVID-19 vaccinations here.

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