covid recovery

Helping patients recover after COVID-19 

As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients emerge with medical problems that often require continued care for weeks and sometimes months after the initial onset of illness, according to Jennifer Possick, MD, medical director of the Winchester Chest Clinic at Yale New Haven Hospital. 

Within weeks of the virus making its first appearance in Connecticut, a blueprint for the RECOVERY program (the Comprehensive post-COVID-19 Center at Yale) was developed in the Winchester Chest Clinic to follow post-COVID-19 patients. While the program first focused on patients who experienced the worst of the disease, the clinic staff saw an increasing need to care for those who were not sick enough to require a hospital stay, but who were still suffering months after exposure. 

Respiratory issues are the hallmark of the disease, yet the virus also acutely affects many other organ systems and can lead to lingering symptoms. In addition to persistent shortness of breath, cough, chest discomfort and exercise intolerance, Dr. Possick said patients recovering from  COVID-19 report that they experience other symptoms such as dizziness, profound fatigue, difficulty concentrating, memory deficits, difficulty sleeping, palpitations, muscle weakness and pain, anxiety and depression. These ongoing, significant symptoms prevent people from resuming their usual activities at home and at work. 

“It’s really a constellation of symptoms that are different with each patient,” Dr. Possick said. “We’re seeing patients who are 30, 60, even 90 days into illness and are still limited by residual symptoms.”

The RECOVERY program at the Winchester Chest Clinic is open to referrals for all post-COVID-19 patients who are experiencing persistent respiratory symptoms. Patients may be referred by their primary care physician or may contact the clinic directly at 203-785-4198 for more information about post-COVID-19 evaluation. 

That flu shot: Even more important this year 

If you've ever had the flu, you know how sick you can get. The flu is not a “bad cold.” Influenza (flu) kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. each year, with the very young, the elderly and those with underlying conditions the most vulnerable. 

Flu season looks a bit different this year, as the country continues to struggle with a coronavirus pandemic that now overlaps with the peak months for flu. When coupled with the effects of COVID-19, public health experts say it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot. 

“What we’re worried about specifically is as we start to see not only the flu, but other respiratory infections coming in to our community, it will be very difficult for clinicians to differentiate between those who have COVID and those who have the flu,” said Richard Martinello, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention at YNHH.

Common flu symptoms include fever, sore throat, dry cough, headache and body aches. COVID-19 symptoms can also include fever, cough and aches. Other common COVID-19 symptoms, however, can include diarrhea and vomiting.

Dr. Martinello said the best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get your yearly flu shot. It’s safe and recommended for everyone 6 months or older, including pregnant women, unless you’re known to have a severe allergy to the flu shot.

“You cannot get the flu from the flu shot,” Dr. Martinello said. “There is no live virus in the flu shot. It’s really just proteins from the virus itself that are in the shot so it’s impossible to get flu from the flu shot.”

The good news is that some of the safety measures implemented to reduce exposure to COVID-19 may also be helpful to combat the flu. Influenza and COVID-19 are spread through respiratory droplets, so handwashing, social distancing and mask wearing will all be essential practices in the coming months.

To keep our communities safe, flu shots are now available by appointment only. Please contact your primary care provider or local walk-in care location for more information and to schedule your flu vaccination.

Visit our website for more information about the flu, including difference between flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms, what to do if you get sick and flu safety for children. 

Do you need a referral for a physician? YNHH provides free information about more than 2,600 affiliated physicians 24 hours a day. Call 888-700-6543 or use our Find a Doctor feature on the website to find out more about physician specialties, office hours and locations as well as insurance plans accepted.

New Primary Care Medical Center at 150 Sargent Drive, New Haven

Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH), Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center and Fair Haven Community Health Care celebrated the opening of the newly constructed Primary Care Medical Center at 150 Sargent Drive, New Haven, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 20. The facility brings the combined resources and expertise of these three providers together under one roof.

 “Together, with our partners at Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center and Fair Haven Community Health Care, we have joined efforts to improve the health status of the underserved population of New Haven and the surrounding communities. This new extraordinary facility will support our efforts and our mission,” said Cynthia Sparer, senior vice president, Operations at YNHH and executive director, Children’s Hospital and Women’s Services at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. “Greater access to enhanced services, including behavioral health and on-site ancillary services, combined with the outstanding resources of all three healthcare organizations, will mean improved care for patients and families.”

Services offered at the Primary Care Medical Center include women’s services and pediatric care, adult care, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program and radiology and blood.

“We’ve come to this milestone after literally thousands of hours of work, spanning more than five years,” said Suzanne P. Lagarde, MD, MBA, CEO, Fair Haven Community Health Care. “The end result is an unprecedented opportunity to provide high quality care for the majority of New Haven’s low income and minority residents. Population health will be facilitated by an EMR (electronic medical record) that is shared by all three providers. This will also minimize duplication of services and will help us in addressing the social determinants of health. I am thrilled that we will oversee the pediatric primary care practice at the new location and will be able to expose trainees to the Community Health Center model of care. In the process, we hope to motivate some of these residents to dedicate their careers to the care of vulnerable populations.”

“Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center is pleased and honored to assume responsibility for the Adult Medicine and Women’s Health primary care practices at 150 Sargent Drive,” said Michael Taylor, CEO, Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center. “We look forward to this closer working relationship with YNHH faculty and staff, and are excited that this collaboration affords us an ideal opportunity to combine our respective areas of expertise to benefit Greater New Haven residents.”

How to keep your face mask clean

Day in and day out, many Americans rely on cloth face masks for protection to help slow the spread of the coronavirus – as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).But did you know it's also important to clean cloth face masks regularly to limit the spread of germs? 

The first step is to always remove masks correctly and wash your hands after handling or touching a used mask.

Next, pop your mask in the washing machine with your regular laundry. Use laundry detergent and the warmest water setting appropriate for the fabric. After washing, lay the mask flat and let dry completely, or dry on your dryer’s highest heat setting. 

The CDC does not recommended cleaning cloth face masks in the microwave oven or a pot of boiling water. They are not as effective as machine washing and drying.

How often should you wash your cloth face masks? The CDC says it depends on the frequency of use. If you want to be extra cautious — or think someone is symptomatic or has sneezed or coughed within close proximity — clean your face mask after each use.

What is MIS-C? Is your child at risk?

You may have seen media stories about a new health condition that affects children. It’s called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and health officials think it’s caused by COVID-19. As details about MIS-C continue to emerge, experts at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital are working to understand this rare syndrome and how best to treat it. 

The most important thing that parents should know is that MIS-C is very rare and only occurs in children who have had COVID. Another important point that parents should understand is MIS-C is treatable, and that children who get this late complication of COVID can and do recover.

“We monitor the guidelines and recommendations coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention very closely and update information with hospital staff as things change, and protocols are adjusted as necessary,” said Thomas Murray, MD, PhD, associate medical director for infection prevention, YNHCH. “We have a comprehensive team of many different disciplines from cardiology to rheumatology to infectious diseases who can provide care for these children using protocols that were developed with the quality and safety and clinical teams.” 

What are the symptoms of pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome?  Many children who have been affected do not display the more common symptoms of COVID-19 and were generally seen as healthy before developing the illness. The symptoms vary depending on which organ system is affected, but in general, these seem to be the main signs of MIS-C:

  • Fever
  • Skin rash 
  • Unusual abdominal pain
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Pink or red eyes 
  • Swollen hands or feet
  • Enlarged lymph nodes on the neck

When should you take your child to the doctor? Again, the symptoms of pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome are varied right now, but if your child develops a rash, red eyes, a high fever, or abdominal pain, you should see your child’s pediatrician immediately. And, if you’re not sure, call anyway—your child’s doctor should be able to guide you from there.

While reports of the syndrome are worrisome, Dr. Murray says that parents shouldn’t panic. “It is a rare condition” he says. “The best thing still is doing whatever we can to prevent infection, such as practicing social distancing and good hand hygiene and wearing a mask when in close contact with others.”

Early detection is key for breast cancer

Breast cancer is the second-leading cancer among women in the U.S. – but millions of women are surviving the disease, thanks in part to regular screening, early detection and improvements in treatment. 

When should you be screened? The earlier cancer is detected, the better the chances that treatment will be effective, so the goal is to find cancers before they begin to cause symptoms. All women of average risk who are 40 years and older should receive annual screening mammograms. Women who are at an increased lifetime risk of breast cancer (due to strong family history, known genetic mutations that are associated with breast cancer, and/or received chest radiation for other cancer or conditions between the ages of 10 – 30) may consider screening before age 40. If you have any of these risk factors, you should talk to your health care providers about when and how to screen for breast cancer. 

The Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven performs approximately 20,000 breast examinations each year. These consist of screening and diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasounds and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations. Yale New Haven Hospital offers online scheduling for mammograms at the Guilford, North Haven and New Haven locations. To learn more about breast cancer screening, prevention and services at the Breast Center, call 203-200-2328. 

As part of the Connecticut Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Screening Programs, Yale New Haven Hospital offers comprehensive breast and cervical cancer screening for medically underserved women. Services such as mammograms, clinical breast exams and Pap smears are offered free of charge for eligible women over age 40 who meet certain criteria. To find out if you are eligible or for more information about the program, call 203-688-4562 or 203-688-4563.

Where care and safety go hand in hand

As we all make our way through this pandemic, know that Yale New Haven Hospital is taking extra steps to keep you safe when you come to us for care – in our hospitals, at our ambulatory facilities and in our physician offices. 

Our operating rooms and procedural areas meet the most stringent guidelines for cleanliness and safety. If you have a scheduled procedure, our teams will walk you through new, easy processes for pre-testing, arrival and discharge. These include using mobile device check-in and reduced on-site paperwork.

We continue to offer a number of services at our ambulatory locations and physician offices. Exam rooms are thoroughly cleaned after each patient. And our radiology equipment is cleaned according to the strictest standards after each patient.

Don’t delay needed care! Putting it off can lead to complications and advanced stages of disease. If you have a medical emergency, including signs of a heart attack or stroke, get help right away. Our Emergency Departments are ready to care for people in any medical emergency. 

Know that we continue to schedule appointments, surgeries and procedures. Contact your healthcare provider if you postponed an appointment due to COVID-19 or are looking to put your health care needs back on track.

Laboratory services are open

Did your doctor order a test? We’re open for services. When your physician orders blood work, we make it easy with blood draw stations conveniently located in your community. A physician requisition form is required. All major insurance plans are accepted. Our blood draw stations honor requisitions from other labs. Please call 1-800-305-3278 for locations and hours of operation. 

Referrals for physicians and surgeons

YNHH provides free information about and referrals to more than 2,600 affiliated physicians 24 hours a day. Call 888-700-6543 or visit our Find a Doctor feature on the hospital website for information on physician specialties, office hours and locations as well as insurance plans accepted. YNHH physicians represent more than 70 medical and surgical specialties and subspecialties, including internal medicine/family practice, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedics, pediatrics and psychiatry.  

What would you like to know? 

Want to learn more about a particular health topic or service? Questions about classes and events at YNHH? We want to hear from you! Tell us what you like about Advancing Care or how we can improve. Send an email and let us know how we can better serve your health needs.

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Yale New Haven Hospital offers financial counseling to patients and families. Spanish-speaking counselors are also available. To make an appointment with a financial counselor, call 203-688-2046.