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Q&A: Can you get long COVID after an infection with omicron?

Dr. Ricardo González-Fisher of Servicios de la Raza joined 9NEWS to talk about long COVID, what its symptoms are, and how many people are experiencing it.

DENVER — As Colorado prepares to administer the new COVID-19 boosters targeting today's most common omicron strains, a medical expert reminds Coloradans of the importance of getting vaccinated amid warnings of a fall COVID surge.

"Let's remember that people who are not vaccinated have a higher risk of getting sick, they have a higher risk of having a complicated disease, and consequently they have a higher risk of getting long COVID," Dr. Ricardo González-Fisher of Servicios de la Raza said. 

Gonzalez-Fisher joined 9NEWS+ host Chris Bianchi to weigh in on long COVID, whether or not an omicron infection can cause it, what its symptoms are, and how many people are experiencing it. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the updated vaccines on Thursday. González-Fisher also gave an update on when we can expect those vaccines to be available at the organization.  

RELATED: CDC endorses updated COVID boosters, shots to begin soon

Answers are edited for length and clarity. 

Q: What is long COVID and what are its symptoms?

Gonzalez-Fisher: Long COVID is something that we have been seeing in a group of patients who have had COVID-19. They have symptoms that last weeks, months and there are even people who have continued to have symptoms for more than a year, almost two years.  

General symptoms are muscle aches, fatigue or frequent headaches. A group of people have something called "brain fog," and it's difficult for them to concentrate, to generate thoughts. Some people continue to have loss of smell and taste.

"A couple of weeks ago, there was a paper written in Argentina that people who continued without a sense of smell or taste, have a higher rate of developing cognitive changes similar to people who have alzheimer's," Gonzalez-Fisher added. "So, these are consequences of having COVID-19 in older people."

"It's something that we have to think about because this will also impact your ability to work," he added.

What percentage of people have long COVID? 

It is a complex question to respond because it depends on what symptoms you're considering inside of your definition of long COVID and how severe COVID was. It can be present anywhere between 8 to 30% of the cases depending on how you're describing it and how severe it was. It's a huge number.  

Is long COVID more likely after an omicron infection? 

We were looking at some work in Europe, particularly in England, and the good news is that there are fewer COVID cases, there are fewer complicated cases with omicron and there are fewer long COVID cases with omicron. But it does keep showing up. Less frequent, but it does occur.

What is the best way to avoid long COVID? 

The best way is to not get sick. It's a reminder for people that this is one of the serious problems of those who do not get vaccinated.  

Children have been at higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes when they have had COVID-19. It is not considered part of long COVID in children.

“Thinking of children who have no family history, but who develop diabetes after having severe COVID, well, one would like to try to prevent that – the best way again, to go for their vaccine," Gonzalez-Fisher said.

Gonzalez-Fisher said the new COVID-19 boosters will be available at Servicios beginning next week. 

RELATED: Infectious disease experts warn of early start to flu season, autumn COVID surge

 Servicios De La Raza, the state's largest nonprofit serving Latinos, will continue to offer its vaccination clinic each week on Thursdays.

This week, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., they will have a mobile clinic at the Mexican Consulate located at 5350 Leetsdale Drive, Suite #100. You do not need to be Mexican or have any business at the consulate to get a vaccine. 

Vaccines are also available from 4 to 8 p.m. at the organization, which is at 3131 W. 14th Ave. Appointments are not required but are recommended. People can call 303-458-5851 to make an appointment.

No form of identification, Social Security number or health insurance is required to get vaccinated.



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