'COVID-19 long-hauler': Symptoms persist weeks, months after diagnosis

Brain fog, extreme fatigue, coughing: Some coronavirus survivors are dealing with the effects of the virus weeks —even months — later. 

FOX6 talked with an area COVID-19 "long-hauler" who says the virus continues to devastate her life.

"You do minimal activity and it takes the wind out of you," Jennifer Ekstrand said.

Jennifer Ekstrand

She tested positive for COVID-19 in November. 

Months later she is struggling with symptoms. 

"It felt like the flu. It just never went away," she said.

From extreme fatigue to a constant cough, Ekstrand says she is unable to return to work.  

"My work has given me to April 16, I think, as far as even taking a leave of absence. After that, I don’t know what they’re going to do. I may lose my job," she said.

She considers herself a COVID-19 'long hauler':

"The terminology that we are using is what is now being called the post-acute sequelae of SARS-COV-2, meaning that once you have had a chance to recover from the initial infection, are you all the way back to the way you were before you had it," Dr. Nasia Safdar said. She's the medical director for Infection Prevention at UW Health.

Dr. Nasia Safdar

She says these cases where symptoms simply won't go away are common. 

"As many as 40% of patients who have an initial diagnosis of SARS-COV2 will fall into this category," Dr. Safdar said.

Ekstrand has sought medical care and found support on social media with others struggling to recover while looking for answers and help.

"I’m now behind in debt. There just doesn’t seem to be any answers coming from any kind of government. Any anything." she said.

She's working to raise awareness and let those battling symptoms know they're not alone. 

"We’re out here and we could really use some help," Ekstrand said.

Doctors say patients should seek medical care to receive a proper diagnosis.

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