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It's been more than nine months since the first cases of COVID-19 showed up in Wuhan, China. Doctors had thought it was a respiratory illness that only deeply affected the elderly, with mostly everyone else able to recover fairly quickly. Now, though – with more than 30 million cases reported worldwide – it's clear that the novel coronavirus is a lot more dangerous than first thought.
Many survivors have experienced strokes, kidney failure, breathing issues, swallowing problems and a host of other ailments. While most people will feel fine after a few weeks, others face a potentially long recovery, explains Professor Catriona Steele, Director of the Swallowing Rehabilitation Research Laboratory at Toronto's KITE Research Institute.
"Many survivors are going to need a lot of help," she says.
Fortunately, researchers at KITE, the research arm of UHN's Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, are searching for new treatments to assist those in need. While much of the world's medical community is focused on developing a vaccine or finding pharmaceuticals to treat the disease, KITE's staff are examining the after-effects of the virus and redeploying rehab resources to help.
"There are still a lot of unknowns and that's a challenge," explains fellow KITE scientist Dr. Azadeh Yadollahi. "We know patients are going to need a lot more rehab.
"We know some things based on what we see in the ICU, but there's a lot we don't know. We have to design programs and run them at the same time now."
Read more how KITE scientists and Toronto Rehab clinicians are helping COVID-19 patients recover