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Four years into pandemic, long COVID is 'real' but remains a mystery

Helena Oliviero and Stephanie Lamm, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

ATLANTA — Casey Dantzler of Atlanta was hit hard by COVID-19 early in the pandemic before vaccines or treatment were available. Four years later, the virus continues to impact his daily life in ways he could have never imagined.

In his late 50s when he became ill, the virus took away his ability to work as a private investigator. He can no longer work out at the gym. Even reading the Bible, always an essential part of his life, became difficult: the words blurred on the page.

Also unimaginable: Four years later, he’s no better.

“My whole life changed. My whole body changed when I got COVID,” said Dantzler.

Dantzler is one of the millions of American adults believed to be suffering from long COVID.

The cause of the lingering symptoms is still a mystery. More than 200 long COVID symptoms have been documented according to the National Institutes of Health, including debilitating fatigue, memory and sleep problems and heart issues.


A recent survey by U.S. Census Bureau has found about 18% of American adults say they have suffered from post-COVID symptoms lasting at least three months. The estimate for Georgians is also 18%.

It was four years ago — March 2, 2020 — when Georgia health officials confirmed the first two cases of what was then a new respiratory virus in a father and son in Fulton County. Since then, an estimated 3 million cases in Georgia have been reported, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The actual number is far higher since official counts don’t include home tests.

Despite the intervening years of research and treatments, aspects of the virus that causes COVID continue to confound doctors and patients. But doctors are optimistic breakthroughs are coming, even for those who have suffered with the baffling illness for years.

“If I am looking at myself and the clinic now compared to two years ago, I’m much more hopeful that we can make people better,” said Dr. Alex Truong, a pulmonologist who leads Emory’s long COVID clinic at Emory University Hospital Midtown where some 500 patients are seeking treatment for a gamut of symptoms. “Hopefully with each visit, they’re better than the last visit. That’s what I am shooting for.”


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