What to know about COVID-19 'long-haulers'

Doctors are puzzled by some coronavirus patients who have been exhibiting symptoms for weeks or months after they were diagnosed.
4:47 | 06/23/20

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Transcript for What to know about COVID-19 'long-haulers'
We turn to our "Gma" cover story and one group of covid-19 patients leaving doctors puzzle. They call themselves the long haulers. People exhibiting symptoms for weeks or even months after contracting the virus. Eva pilgrim has more and good morning to you. Reporter: Good morning. Most of these long haulers aren't sick enough to be hospitalized but aren't well enough to return to normal life. They aren't elderly or otherwise high risk and they are all asking the same question, why won't this virus go away? Michele hart is a 41-year-old mom from Boulder, Colorado, and like so many millions she was stricken with coronavirus. The first couple symptoms are pretty mild, sore throat, a little bit of a cough, about two weeks ago, started having a lot of G.I. Symptom, a lot of things I hadn't experienced up to that point. Reporter: But unlike most patients including her partner Ian who typically have mild symptoms and recover she's been sick for two months. I would have days where I would feel better then like the very next day it would just be back down to just not feeling good and not having a lot of energy. Reporter: She turned to Facebook to connect with others who like her just can't seem to shake their covid symptoms. There she found a community of patients who refer to themselves as long haulers. I've been sick for about 45 days so since about may 8th. I've been sick for 15 weeks. I started on March 17th. And today makes day 97. Reporter: Many say they were healthy before testing positive for covid-19 and that their doctors can't tell them why they aren't recovering. They use Facebook groups like survivor corps with nearly 60,000 members to share information and advice about their ongoing symptoms and treatments. When I go on these groups, I feel comfortable asking questions and I know that I can get a good answer and people say, yeah, you know, I am experiencing that too. I'm going through the same journey you are. Reporter: For many long haulers, the groups allow them to know they're not alone. There's so many people going through the same thing, they understand what I'm feeling and what I'm going through. And they're there to offer support. We pray together. We encourage each other. We motivate each other. Reporter: And the long haulers tell us most of them have been told by their doctors some form of I don't know as to why the virus hasn't gone away. Michael. Thank you so much, Eva. Now we go to Dr. Jen Ashton who has joined us this morning. Good morning. It sounds awful to have this go on for so long but what are the theories of why it may take so long for some people to recover? Will, Michael, I know people don't like to hear I don't know but that is the honest medical answer right now. This virus is just too new and to be clear, this is about the distinction between being acutely ill and recovered from those acute symptoms but still not up to your baseline that you were before you got sick and the theory really has something to do with the fact that we think covid-19 causes this picture that we're calling an infectious vasculitis so an acute infection and then there's an inflammation stage that occurs in the blood vessels and depending on which blood vessels are affected can then determine what types of residual and long-lasting symptoms people have but for perspective, Michael, sometimes it takes people a month to recover from influenza. People may not want to hear I don't know but they appreciate the honesty, I'm sure. Other than fatigue, what are some of the other prolonged symptoms reported? Well, two areas we're focusing on are the psychological effects, anywhere from anxiety to depression to the cognitive effects particularly seen in this picture that we call a post-icu syndrome in those patients who have have been severely ill and in an intensive care unit but those with more mild illness cognitive effects, seeing neurologic sequela and don't understand what's contributing. You are a practicing physician so what is your advice to people who are going through Well, first if you have a health care provider, check in for follow-up. Do not assume that because you're recovered, you're good to go. The other thing is you have to be patient. This is an illness that may take month to recover from. We don't know. I think you should think of a fiscal therapy approach. Every day baby steps and then lastly if you are getting better and then take a step backwards and start to get worse, you definitely want to seek medical attention. Jen, thank you for the great advice as always.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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