EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Roughly one in seven people in El Paso County have now had Covid-19. Hospitalizations are decreasing, but health experts say there is a new kind of surge on our healthcare system as those previously infected seek specialists for lingering symptoms.
"I was throwing up. I had diarrhea for a whole week. I lost 10 pounds and I couldn't even eat. I couldn't even eat," said El Paso resident Graciela Ramirez.
Ramirez tested positive for Covid-19 in November. Months have passed, but her symptoms have not.
"I used to love eating spicy food and my stomach cannot handle spicy anymore," she said. "I don't know how long it's going to stay."
Ramirez has since lost 20 pounds.
She's not alone in facing lingering symptoms. The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said some studies show up to 30% of patients report symptoms can endure for months. The National Institutes of Health is launching a new research initiative to study these COVID 'long-hauler' cases.
"Covid has been one of those viruses that have never stopped to amaze us," said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, El Paso City/County Health Authority.
Dr. Ocaranza said it can be difficult to predict which patients will face lingering symptoms, but he said a wider range of specialists are seeing more Covid patients in the aftermath of their infections.
"For medical providers, it is quite challenging on how we're addressing a lot of those issues," Dr. Ocaranza said.
Some of the most common lingering symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath and cough. Others report a "brain fog." Dr. Ocaranza said the best way to prevent long-haul symptoms is to prevent infection.
The chief of infectious diseases at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso said lengths can vary for how long symptoms last.
"Even the psychological aspects of 'long-haulers' have to be addressed because there is a lot of depression that comes with that, a lot of anxiety, because you don't know what's going to happen with your health," Dr. Armando Meza said.
Ramirez is not sure when her symptoms will improve.
"The doctors are learning from it. Everybody's learning from it, so it's a learning experience," she said.