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Tackling what's known about long-haul COVID-19 symptoms

As cases grow like North Dakotans have never seen before — we are also learning more about the long-term impacts of the virus: brain fog, lung problems and hair loss — just to name a few. Our region's most trusted infectious disease experts are showing us the latest on these lingering effects of COVID.

MRI scans from the virtual town hall hosted by Dr. Paul Carson, discussing long-term COVID symptoms.
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FARGO — Some call it long-haul COVID or long COVID, having symptoms months after getting infected. The World Health Organization is officially calling it Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19, or PASC for short.

Infectious disease expert, Dr. Paul Carson, ran through what the medical world knows about PASC so far in a virtual town hall on Friday, Jan. 21.

"(A) very, very high percentage of people with COVID survive. I'm healthy, I'll take my chances," Dr. Carson quoted a common notion he hears a lot. Regardless of this widespread impression, COVID-19 is proving to have long term effects — even on younger people.

He brought up Brady Munro, a young athlete WDAY News spoke to after months in the hospital with COVID-19.

Based on several studies, the symptoms can set in weeks after recovery. Problems like fatigue, lung problems, chest pains, kidney disease and hair loss can persist for months. Dr. Carson is also hearing about extended loss of taste or smell.


But one of the big effects he is concerned about is brain damage among some recovered COVID-19 patients.

"A study that I think should give us all great pause about kind of just letting COVID go, or saying, 'it's inevitable, I'm going to get this,'" Dr. Carson said. "This study I think in particular, should give people some pause."

He is referring to the United Kingdom Biobank study, an ongoing look at brain structure through MRI scans that started before the pandemic. It found roughly 60% of subjects who got COVID-19 in 2020 had gray matter shrink. Dr. Carson said that is the part of the brain responsible for processing memories, emotions, taste and smell.

The vast majority of these people were not hospitalized.

Some of his other studies are linking PASC to an increased chance of getting diabetes among young people, and increased rates of erectile dysfunction.

Dr. Carson says the long-haul symptoms are appearing to be less potent for people who get COVID-19 after getting vaccinated.

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