Clinics, online resources available for Albertans with long COVID

An estimated 20 per cent of Albertans who have had COVID experience, or lingering symptoms of the virus. Here's where they can go for help.

Supports and resources are available for Albertans experiencing symptoms of COVID months after recovery

A long COVID clinic that opened in February at the Peter Lougheed Centre in northeast Calgary is one of four in Alberta. (Government of Alberta)

Chronic fatigue. Weakness. Brain fog.

Most people fully recover quickly, but for weeks and sometimes months after recovery from COVID-19, some patients are still experiencing these symptoms.

It's not known exactly how many Albertans suffer from long COVID — when symptoms linger for eight weeks or longer. Chester Ho, the senior medical director of Alberta Health Service's (AHS) neuroscience, rehabilitation and vision strategic clinical network, puts the estimate at 20 per cent of those who have had the virus.

That number is based on studies in other countries, like one in the U.K. that found that 37 per cent of people experienced at least one symptom 12 weeks after recovery from COVID.

Ho said that the experience can be confusing for people when they have vague symptoms that don't lead to an easy diagnosis.

"Sometimes when you do a lot of medical testing, you do not find much there," he said. "And so when they actually hear about our work and what we're trying to do, they felt really relieved."

Ho said that AHS has supports and resources available for those suffering from long COVID — and more are on the way.

There are four specialized referral clinics in Alberta at the Kaye Edmonton Clinic, Edmonton North PCN, the Peter Lougheed Centre and the Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary.

AHS is working to establish rehabilitation services, which can include physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Ho said that many symptoms can be managed at home; AHS has telephone supports as well as online self-management tips for patients that range from how to pace yourself through daily activities to how to manage mental health challenges resulting from long COVID.

But he said it's important doctors know what resources are out there too.

"We need to educate the public as well as the providers about what this condition is and what symptoms people may present."

AHS is planning to launch an in-depth survey by the end of October to learn more about long COVID in Alberta.

"We are strongly encouraging that Albertans who receive an invitation for the survey complete that," said Ho. "It will really help us understand how Albertans are doing and also give us a lot of information for future planning and support of people with this condition."

With files from Helen Pike.