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University Of California Hospitals Create COVID-19 'Long Hauler' Task Force

ORANGE COUNTY (CBSLA) - With the increasing number of people suffering from "long COVID," where they experience symptoms of COVID-19 even after technically recovering from the virus, hospitals are looking for ways to address their symptoms.

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Ben Ginsburg, 40 of Aliso Viejo, is still struggling with symptoms of COVID-19, 16 months after he first contracted the virus.

COVID "long hauler" Ben Ginsburg was having a fairly good day, but the Aliso Viejo photographer said he's nowhere near the point where he can work. It's been 16 months since he contracted COVID and was hospitalized.

"I can't drive. You know, I can't really even help around the house with many things. You know, like, I can't do the dishes without my heart rate getting up to 112, 115 in a couple of minutes. I can't go up more than one flight of stairs a day," Ginsburg said.

The 40-year-old's multi-system illnesses are not uncommon for those suffering from long COVID.

Doctors said it can hit any organ, such as the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and skin, triggering symptoms like brain fog, chest pains and shortness of breath.

"It can be life changing," said Dr. Jaclyn Leong.

University of California hospitals have formed a task force on "long hauler" symptoms. Dr. Leong is the co-director of the University of California, Irvine Health's COVID Recovery Clinic, which has been seeing hundreds of patients.

"We all work together and address each symptom by organ system, so if you have mental health issues, we have psychiatrists and mental health providers that can help along the way or we have physical therapists if you're having a lot of muscle weakness or muscle aching," she said.

Dr. Leong said a minimum of one out of 10 COVID patients develop the long-COVID symptoms that can start appearing several weeks after the initial diagnosis.

Ginsburg didn't qualify for the vaccine in 2020 when he got COVID, but he's now vaccinated.

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