WASHINGTON, D.C. — Federal health officials are preparing to issue guidelines to help doctors diagnose and treat people suffering from COVID-19 months after getting infected.

The top physicians at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) told Congress this week that long-haul COVID is a serious problem affecting millions of Americans.

What You Need To Know

  • Federal health officials preparing guidelines to treat long-term cases of COVID-19

  • About 3 million people could end up with chronic health issues, officials say

  • Long-haulers experience chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, brain fog 

  • "t’s a matter of surviving and thriving,” athlete, runner, long-hauler Alexandra Hackett says

“There’s a boomerang effect,"   said Alexandra Hackett, who has been dealing with lingering symptoms of COVID-19 for almost 14 months. "You think you’re recovered. Then months later, you get hit with these random symptoms.”

Hackett’s life has dramatically changed since she contracted COVID-19. She still suffers from chronic chest pain, breathlessness, fatigue and brain fog. She regularly documents her condition in a video diary online for friends and family. 

The 44-year-old was an athlete and avid runner when she fell ill last year. Now, she struggles to jog a block and finds it almost impossible to work out in the same way.

“It has brought me to tears. There are millions of us who were healthy before we got this," Hackett said in an interview with Spectrum News 13. "Now, we have debilitating conditions. And we don’t know how long this is going to last.”

Dr. Aftab Khan of Davenport, Fla, said he treats patients every day with lingering symptoms of COVID-19, a group known as long-haulers.

“Some of my patients cannot leave their bed," Khan explained. "They were very active prior to COVID infection.

"Now, they are feeling tiredness, having palpitations, tachycardia, constant headaches, similar to migraine. These symptoms are lingering for months and months.”

A top health official told lawmakers this week that 3 million people may end up with chronic health problems after COVID infections. The agency is preparing to offer more than a billion dollars in grants for research. 

“We will continue to provide guidance on post-COVID conditions that are rooted in science,” said Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during a key House hearing. 

The CDC said it is finalizing guidelines to help doctors diagnose and treat long-haul COVID-19.

Hackett’s road to recovery is unclear. As a communications professional for Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia, she’s had access to a team of doctors to help her through her diagnosis. 

“They treat it like they would if I had a mild concussion,” Hackett said of the neurotherapy she has undergone to treat her brain fog. 

She said she hopes medical professionals will soon be able to better diagnose and treat patients like herself. 

“This pandemic is not over. We are just going to see more and more people emerging with this,” Hackett said.

“It’s not a matter of surviving. It’s a matter of surviving and thriving.”