What do we know about long Covid?

New research suggests more than two million people in England have suffered symptoms of long Covid.

But what do we know about the condition?

– What is long Covid?

Long Covid, also known as post-Covid syndrome, is used to describe the effects of the virus that continue for weeks or months beyond the initial illness.

– What are the symptoms?

The most recent study from Imperial College London suggests the most common symptoms were tiredness and muscle aches.

While in a second group they were shortness of breath affecting normal activities, tightness in the chest and chest pain, with more people reporting that they had severe symptoms.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

– What other effects have been reported?

Previous research has indicated a range of other symptoms, including fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, insomnia, dizziness, pins and needles, joint pain, depression and anxiety, tinnitus, earaches, feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite, a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste or skin rashes.

– How many people are suffering?

More than two million people in England may have had long Covid, the React-2 study suggests, with more than one third of people who had coronavirus reporting symptoms lasting at least 12 weeks.

Around a tenth of those with symptoms said they lasted at least 12 weeks and were severe.

A separate study led by UCL and King’s College London researchers suggests one in six (17%) middle-aged people who report being infected by coronavirus also report long Covid symptoms.

This falls to one in 13 (7.8%) among younger adults who reported having Covid-19.

– Who is affected?

Long Covid is higher among women, people who are overweight or obese, those who smoke, people who live in deprived areas, or those who had been admitted to hospital.

The prevalence of the condition also increases with age.

According to the research, persistent Covid-19 symptoms were lower in people of Asian ethnicity.

– How long does it last?

It is not yet known how long symptoms may last, but previous research has found people reporting effects 36 weeks – or nine months – after infection.

Elsewhere some people have reported catching Covid in March 2020 and still suffering long-term effects now.

– What have health experts said?

Scientists from the UK’s National Institute for Health Research suggest ongoing Covid may not be one illness but at least four different syndromes.

These have been broadly categorised as: post-intensive care syndrome, post-viral fatigue syndrome, permanent organ damage and long-term Covid syndrome.

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– What treatment is available?

To help people suffering the debilitating long-term effects of this virus, the NHS has opened more than 80 long Covid assessment services across England.

Last week, the NHS published a £100 million plan to expand support, including £30 million to help GPs improve diagnosis and care for patients with long Covid.

The NHS also has a Your Covid Recovery support tool, which offers advice and is available at https://www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk/