Skip to Content

COVID “long-haulers” get recognized by Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has a new section on its website dedicated to COVID "long-haulers."

What determines a person as a "long-hauler" or "long COVID" hasn't been decided by health care providers or researchers, but one study used the definition of long COVID as symptoms lasting more than six weeks.

One such long hauler is Travis Smith, a Rigby man who had COVID-19 in July and ended up reading a news story online.

"About a month after I was still showing symptoms and was still sick, I found a news article," Smith said.

The story led Smith to a COVID long-hauler Facebook support group in Utah.

"This was the first I'd heard of a COVID long-hauler. And as I read the interview, I was thinking, 'it's good to know I'm not alone, there's others out there like me,'" Smith said.

After seeing there wasn't such a group for Idaho, Smith created his own Facebook group "Idaho COVID Long Haulers."

"If there's long-haulers out there, they're probably in the same boat I was, they don't know that this is a thing, the fact that they're still sick, weeks or months after," Smith said.

Smith said the group provides long-haulers space to talk with each other.

"People have been able to discuss their symptoms, how to alleviate those symptoms, what have the doctors checked for, or sometimes you just need a place to vent with a group of people that understand," Smith said.

One of those frustrations is doctors don't have an exact treatment for long-hauler symptoms, some of the most common including shortness of breath, fatigue, and tachycardia (increased heart rate, in excess of 100 beats per minute).

The treatments, and symptoms, often vary person to person.

Another problem is how hard it is to determine if someone is a long-hauler or not, Smith said.

"Especially early on in the pandemic, people would go see doctors for it, and one example I commonly use is I saw a doctor in the emergency room after a really bad night of tachycardia, and he dismissed it would have anything to do with COVID." Smith continued "He told me 'You shed the virus at this point, and it's not COVID.' And I was like, ' While I never suffered this, I had tachycardia before, but I never suffered a severe episode like I had that night.'"

Which is where his Facebook group plays a big role.

"The mission behind it is to really get that awareness out there and help officials or doctors, or even just everyday citizens understand that this is a new battle," Smith said. "Hopefully, the day is coming sooner rather than later when COVID itself is eradicated, and we're not dealing with it on the level we are today, but long-haulers are going to be an issue for a good minute with how we're trying to find treatment and how difficult it is to diagnose."

But there is some good news for long-haulers, explained Dr. Todd Bagwell, an infectious disease specialist at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

"One of the interesting things that just popped up recently in the last couple weeks is some patients with COVID, actually seemed to improve after they got their vaccine. The second shot of their vaccine," Bagwell said. "So that, it's just kind of up in the air, there's just a preliminary report right now, but it looks kind of interesting.

And the National Institutes of Health is launching an initiative to study long-haulers. Some of the questions they're hoping to answer include:

  • What does the spectrum of recovery from SARS-CoV-2 infection look like across the population?
  • How many people continue to have symptoms of COVID-19, or even develop new symptoms, after acute SARS-CoV-2 infection?
  • What is the underlying biological cause of these prolonged symptoms?
  • What makes some people vulnerable to this but not others?
  • Does SARS-CoV-2 infection trigger changes in the body that increase the risk of other conditions, such as chronic heart or brain disorders?
Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus Coverage

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Rachel Fabbi

Rachel Fabbi is a reporter, anchor and producer for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.


KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content