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An eastern Idaho resident left with lingering COVID-19 symptoms has reached a new platform in his campaign to raise awareness about COVID-19 long-haulers.

After working with Travis Smith from Rigby, who runs a Facebook support group called “Idaho COVID Long Haulers,” the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare published a webpage last weekend dedicated to people “who continue to suffer debilitating effects of the disease months after being infected with the virus.”

The Idaho health department’s new webpage directs people to online communities where long-haulers have turned to for support, including Smith’s group.

“The most important step happened, and that is recognition. I feel we have a long ways to go still, but I feel this is the first victory for us to make a wave in the state,” Smith said.

In an interview in January, Smith told the Post Register that long-haulers don’t fit into traditional coronavirus statistics. They haven’t died from COVID-19, Smith said, but the idea of “recovery” doesn’t fit for people left with a litany of symptoms ranging from brain fog to heart murmurs to trouble breathing, without a timeline for when symptoms will subside.

Little is known about what factors make people more likely to experience long-lasting symptoms due to COVID-19. Idaho’s new webpage says between 50% to 80% of people “continue to have symptoms up to three months after they contracted COVID-19.” A study published in February suggested that less than a third of COVID-19 patients “reported persistent symptoms” up to nine months after their infection.

In late February, national infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci announced a new nationwide effort to study the medical phenomenon, which experts have called Post Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 or PASC, according to USA TODAY. SARS-CoV-2, better known as the novel coronavirus, is the virus that causes COVID-19.

Smith started his Facebook page in early December. Since then, more than 380 people have joined Idaho COVID Long Haulers . Apart from sharing and cataloging their symptoms, treatments and experiences, some group members share recommendations for doctors who believed their symptoms or tips and tricks for making it through the day.

Smith said this week that he hopes to talk to state senators in April and later to hospitals to identify doctors that can help COVID-19 long-haulers.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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