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Surviving COVID-19: Marquette exercise science professors to research COVID-19 survivors to understand the potential long-term health and functional effects of the virus

Dr. Sandra Hunter chairs the steering committee for Marquette University’s COVID-19 Research Initiative, which brings together the expertise of faculty, students, and staff from different disciplines across campus to address the various complex issues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Inspired by a loved-one’s troubling COVID-19 diagnosis and ongoing recovery struggles, Dr. Sandra Hunter — with help from her colleagues in the Exercise Science Department — is about to launch a comprehensive research project on COVID-19 survivors and their health and function in the months after the disease.

The study aims to identify the various health problems COVID-19 patients may face even after rehabilitation, so that health care professionals can provide and prescribe patients the best appropriate and necessary care during and after the recovery process and contribute to better health outcomes.

It is a feature of the pandemic that has not yet seen a lot of attention, as much of the focus remains on tracking and mitigating the spread of the virus, as well as on initial treatments and the hopes for a vaccine. “There is not a whole lot of information out there about what recovery really means for COVID-19 patients and the unique risks that may remain,” Hunter said.

In the next few months, Hunter and a group of faculty and students will be performing a variety of health assessments on a group of up to 300 COVID-19 survivors. The study will examine the overall health, cardiovascular and muscle function, and exercise capacity of COVID-19 survivors, as well as the potential for survivors to develop long-term health conditions, specifically those that affect limb muscles and the heart and lungs.

Hunter’s COVID-19 survivor research joins at least 40 other research projects as part of Marquette’s COVID-19 Research Initiative.