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Many Nevadans suffer from 'long COVID' long after virus has passed

FILE - In this Saturday, April 24, 2021, file photo, people walk as others dine on the Las Vegas Strip, in Las Vegas.
AP Photo/John Locher, File

FILE - In this Saturday, April 24, 2021, file photo, people walk as others dine on the Las Vegas Strip, in Las Vegas.

Dizziness, headaches, brain fog, fatigue ... that’s a handful of the most common symptoms for people with "long COVID." 

And those symptoms can last more than a year, according to the latest and longest follow-up study of long COVID sufferers.

The study out of Northwestern University included people who had mild COVID symptoms but didn’t need hospitalization. The average age was 43, and about 80% were vaccinated.

It’s having a big impact on the mental health of sufferers, too.

Las Vegas psychotherapist Donna Wilburn has seen long COVID patients in her practice. She said it’s a real struggle to come to terms with this “new normal.”

She said often those who recover from COVID go back to life as they did before, without realizing their brains are still recovering. Later on down the road, they'll think, "Why can't I do the things I can do?"

"Really, it's because their brain did not recover and heal from the COVID that they went through. And they don't even realize it," she said.

She said be nice to your brain. Take it easy, take some things off your plate and lower your expectations. Eat healthy, take brain-friendly supplements and sleep: "Sleep is when the brain heals."

Long COVID is bringing Wilburn new patients who are also dealing with mental health issues as a result. 

"What we're seeing are really stressed out, lack of patience, unable to regulate their emotions very well, can't control themselves, maybe even turning to substances more, try to cope with the stress," she said. "So in relationships, I can't tell you how many unfortunate addiction issues we have had in the past year, because people have turned to substances to cope with this overstressed feeling, rather than healthy stress management and taking care of your brain."

A recent CDC report said more than one in five adult COVID survivors end up with long COVID. Some have long COVID sufferers have killed themselves as a result, most notably Texas Roadhouse founder Kent Taylor in March 2021. 

"It's almost like you're grieving your potential. you're grieving what you could be," Wilburn said. "And that's hard for a lot of people because they have high expectations for themselves."

Nevada's  first and only long COVID clinic is at University Medical Center in Las Vegas. They provide specialized, ongoing care for those with long-term health complications related to COVID-19.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please seek help immediately.

Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Text MHA to 741741 to connect with a trained Crisis Counselor from Crisis Text Line.

Donna Wilburn, marriage and family therapist

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Lorraine Blanco Moss is the host of KNPR's award-winning Asian American Pacific Islander podcast, Exit Spring Mountain. She's also a former producer for State of Nevada, specializing in food and hospitality, women's issues, and sports.