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UCI Health COVID-19 Recovery Service program treats issues of 'long COVID'

March 03, 2022
Dr. Jaclyn Leong UCI Health internist COVID-19 Recovery Service
Dr. Jaclyn Leong, UCI Health internist and co-director of the COVID-19 Recovery Service.

IN THE NEWS: UCI Health launched its COVID-19 recovery program last April to address prolonged COVID-19 symptoms. Since then, with each new variant and surge in positive cases, more patients are seeking treatment for ongoing health issues, including fatigue, cognitive problems, chest pain and shortness of breath.

Dr. Jaclyn Leong, board-certified UCI Health internist and co-director of the UCI Health COVID Recovery Service, recently spoke with the Orange County Register (OCR) about what she’s been seeing in patients suffering from long COVID.

“Every time there seems to be a surge, about four to six weeks later we see more interest in our clinic,” Leong told OCR. She further noted that she has seen a small shift toward patients in their 30s and younger, and more notably, is largely seeing patients who are unvaccinated.

The criteria for long COVID are any symptoms that continue for 12 weeks after initial infection.

“For every 10 people diagnosed with COVID-19, at minimum one of them will get long COVID symptoms,” Leong added.

UCI Health COVID-19 Recovery Service is staffed by internists who treat the whole patient, not just the symptoms, which makes the program unique compared to other local programs. The program’s physicians are also working to educate community doctors on how to recognize long COVID in patients and are sharing best practices on how to how to treat patients, including therapies and medication.

Addressing mental health issues and the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of patients is also a focus of the program. Mental health services are stretched thin throughout the nation, with patients having to wait up to three months for an appointment. Each patient seen in the COVID-19 Recovery Service goes through a mental health screening process. Those who are identified as at-risk for depression, or other mental health issues, are given tools such as free mindful and exercise classes and access to support groups.

“As internists, we have familiarity in treating mental health disorders,” said Dr. Long-Co Nguyen, UCI Health primary care physician who oversees the UCI Health COVID Recovery Service. “More than half of our long-COVID patients would benefit from mental health care.”

COVID-19 Recovery Service consultations are offered at UCI Health medical offices in Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Tustin. To schedule an appointment, call 949-386-5101.

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