While everyone is looking forward to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pittsburgh VA clinicians have their eye on a long-term issue with the disease – a health condition known as “long COVID.”

In January, Pittsburgh VA opened a clinic for Veterans who have recovered from the acute stage of COVID but who continue to have debilitating symptoms of the disease.

Ten to 30 percent of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 report new, returning or worsened symptoms known as post-COVID conditions, according to team member Dr. Erika Hoffman. The broad range of lingering symptoms includes sleep loss, heart and lung issues and trouble with mental processes such as thinking, learning, problem-solving and memory.

Team members stand ready to help Veterans. Dr. Anjali Das, front, left; Dr. Erika Hoffman; and Lisa Reinhardt. In back, from left: Christine Matthews, Lynn Baniak, Kimberly Eichhorn, Eric Dykstra, Jonna Morris and Austin Brown.

“Many have multifaceted health issues and worsened quality of life,” said Hoffman.

Each Veteran gets personalized treatment program

Some Veterans have rare symptoms, such as hair loss and profound fatigue after minimal mental or physical effort, said team member Dr. Anjali Das. Because no two patients present the same symptoms of post-COVID, the team provides each Veteran with a personalized treatment program and three-month follow-up.

The clinic’s multidisciplinary team includes physicians, psychologists, nurses, physical therapists, social workers, researchers, and hearing and speech specialists. They take a team approach to treating Veterans, addressing psychological, physical and mental health needs.

Psychologist Austin Brown assesses Veterans for mental health and cognitive symptoms that can overlap and contribute to long-term recovery. Many Veterans with post-COVID conditions need help with the depression, fear, anxiety and even weight gain that can come with a long-term, debilitating illness.

“This assessment helps to ensure that every aspect of the Veteran’s well-being is considered in the treatment recommendations created by the team,” said Brown.

Physical therapy’s role includes helping Veterans who have lung damage from COVID. They can instruct Veterans who are easily winded, for instance, on therapeutic exercises to perform at home.

Social workers help Veterans identify stressors and challenges. They also help Veterans find VA and community resources to help them deal not only with their symptoms, but also with financial concerns, housing and food insecurity.

Many patients did not get or complete vaccinations

Das said the clinic will remain if there is a need but she reiterated the best way to prevent post-COVID conditions is to prevent COVID-19 illness in the first place.

“Many of the patients we have seen did not get or complete their series of COVID vaccinations,” she said.

In addition to clinical care, the team is gathering information on post-COVID conditions for research.

“We plan to create a registry and data repository that will provide a mechanism to store data, support the conduct of future research about long COVID, and foster collaborations with both VA and non-VA facilities, such as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center,” said team member Dr. Lynn Baniak, associate chief nurse for research.

To be seen in the clinic, Veterans should ask their primary care provider for a referral.

Dr. Bernd Schnabl and his team study bacteriophages, which are viruses that can target and kill specific bacteria and thereby help treat certain health conditions.Viruses called bacteriophages eat bacteria – and may thereby treat some health problems
Soldiers at large clouds of black smoke of burn pit, creating possible airborne hazardsProvider webinar for Veterans with burn pit, other airborne hazard exposures

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9 Comments

  1. Deborah proctor April 16, 2022 at 1:09 pm

    Lots of talk and NO action! Require PCPs or ANY VA doc (no mandate) initiate treatment immediately with prescriptions known to alleviate symptoms because without patients can’t even GET to clinics! Start with Ritalin, modafinil or other stimulants to clear brain fog, stimulate activity, ALLEVIATE DEPRESSION! And ban use of antidepressants as 1st line since they’re so well known to be useless and even harmful. Give patients what they need to function AND benzos to sleep! For goodness sake, their systems have been turned upside down and they need immediate onset short acting help to restore biorhythms etc. AND RECENT RESEARCH SUPPORTS IT ALL AND WITHOUT ALL THE WELL ADVERTISED AND MARKETED NEGATIVE SIDE EFFECTS BIG PHARMA, the dea etc WANT FOLKS TO BELIEVE

  2. Wm Bear, CLOSEST vamc is Martinsburg WVMC March 28, 2022 at 7:51 pm

    =Is Pittsburgh VAMC sharing their treatment plan with other VAMC centers, or one one have to make appointments at their center?

  3. Alfred Lee Hannah March 28, 2022 at 7:45 pm

    The Long Covid clinic is in Pittsburg, I live in Riverview, Florida. How will i be seen or this Long Covid clinic in all Veteran hospitals?
    I suffer with more fatigue and pain on my right low side of my stomach.

  4. David Henning March 24, 2022 at 1:45 am

    While I’m not sure, some of these conditions ARE a concern of mine. I wouldn’t care if I had to go overseas if I’m healed of these things.

  5. TD Mitchell March 23, 2022 at 11:01 pm

    There’s a Long Covid community online with resources in a Slack channel called Body Politic. Best resource for information, treatment options.

  6. Lawrence murphy March 23, 2022 at 9:37 pm

    Since I had Covid I’ve had nodules show up in lungs, lost my wind, have trouble keeping task oriented. Or walk into a room with a purpose but can’t remember what it was, during the illness with Covid it wa found that now I have a descending aortic aneurysms which had never been seen before in earlier X-rays and such.. medical personnel say not unusual for these long term affects but no one does anything to address it. Also seem succeptable to bronchitis, pneumonia, etc. now I’m being told it’s copd even though I had no problems with working outside as far as breathing. And medicines I’m being given all say a side effect is getting pneumonia bronchitis flu etc

  7. Stephen B Sanborn March 23, 2022 at 8:00 pm

    I had cobid in November 2000, and still have heart, lung and extreme fatigue. Still have no taste or smell. Do they have this program in San Antonio?

  8. Virgil Hall March 23, 2022 at 1:13 pm

    I have symptoms of “Long Covid” . They tell me its nothing to worry about. I am college educated but can’t remember what happened 10 minutes ago. I get tired easily with little exertion. Get bouts of vertigo and dizziness.

  9. Tracer Henderson March 23, 2022 at 9:13 am

    I understand this Long Covid clinic is in Pittsburg. I live in Columbia,Sc. How would I be seen or is this clinic in all Veteran hospitals??
    I suffer with fatigue and SOB

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