by ​Rinda Davis, Springfield

​At Springfield-Greene County Health, we’re hearing more stories from people who are dealing with long-term conditions related to previous COVID infections, known as Long COVID. For Springfield community member Judith Martinez, Long COVID has upended her regular way of life for almost two years. Martinez used to exercise frequently — running, weightlifting and yoga — it was a part of her daily life. That’s until she developed COVID-19 in June 2020, months before the vaccine was available. She recovered without going to the hospital, but months later her heart rate became abnormal, and she developed extreme fatigue and brain fog.

“I forget the names of people I am close to, and only in the last six months have I been able to start doing yoga again. Still, no running,” she said. “It is very frustrating that my life has changed so much.”

About one in three people who get infected with COVID-19 will develop Long COVID. Of the people who develop long-term COVID-19 symptoms, 58 percent experience fatigue, 44 percent have lingering headaches and 27 percent report attention issues or brain fog. Seemingly unrelated symptoms like hair loss, erectile dysfunction and joint pain have also been linked to Long COVID. In some cases, the conditions last for weeks — or even months and they can appear after a mild, severe or asymptomatic case of COVID-19.

COVID-19 and its long-term effects are causing enormous challenges for Martinez and many other members of our community, but the good news is COVID-19 vaccines and boosters offer great protection against developing Long COVID. Studies show if you’re vaccinated and get a breakthrough case of COVID-19, you have a 49 percent lower risk of developing these long-term symptoms. Sadly, Martinez didn’t have the option to get vaccinated when she became infected with COVID-19. Now that vaccines are widely available, she recommends everyone make the choice to get vaccinated.

“Long COVID for me has been a journey with many ups and downs,” Martinez said. “I hope that people will get the vaccine to avoid going through the same thing and because it is the responsible thing to do.”

Even as COVID-19 cases currently sit at a low level, the virus could surge again. We want people in our community to be prepared so they can avoid the severe consequences that can come with COVID-19 infection, including the chance of Long COVID.

Getting vaccinated is the best way for you to protect yourself, your loved ones and our community.

Visit vaccine417.com today to find free COVID-19 vaccines and boosters across Greene County.

Rinda Davis, BSN, MPH, RN, is Assistant Director, Springfield-Greene County Health Department