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200113 | Long Covid in the UK – what we know so far

Official estimates indicate around 20% of people who test positive for Covid-19 go on to experience long term issues.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) claims 186,000 positive cases have been impacted by continuing symptoms for up to 12 weeks, with some evidence of many patients being unable to return to work and full capabilities properly for up to six months.


Long Covid in the UK – what we know so far

Thousands of people are struggling with the long-term health impact of the virus

18 February 2021

By Feargal Brennan

Pictured above: IMAGE PIXELATED BY PA PICTURE DESK
A patient is taken to an ambulance outside the Royal London Hospital in London (PA Wire)

The UK Government is under growing pressure to do more to recognise and support those affected by the long-term effects of Covid-19.

Whilst the majority of those who become infected by the virus experience mild to medium symptoms, thousands more have seen a longer recovery period, including the presence of certain issues for months after a positive test.

According to reports from the Press Association, cross party alliance The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has now called on Downing Street to urgently investigate the issue.

Whilst information on the condition is still vague, the NHS and public health officials are beginning to understand more about the long-term impact and how to react.

 

We look at the latest information surrounding the condition and the key symptoms to be aware of.

What is Long Covid?

Long Covid, or post-Covid syndrome, focuses on the effects of the virus that continue for months after the initial illness.

Currently the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) defines it as showing ‘signs and symptoms that develop during or following an infection consistent with Covid-19, which continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis’.

Continuing symptoms are wide ranging and can include physical problems including fatigue and breathlessness to mental health concerns connected to depression and anxiety.

What are the numbers behind Long Covid?

Official estimates indicate around 20% of people who test positive for Covid-19 go on to experience long term issues.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) claims 186,000 positive cases have been impacted by continuing symptoms for up to 12 weeks, with some evidence of many patients being unable to return to work and full capabilities properly for up to six months.

What are the key symptoms?

With health experts still gaining evidence to try and understand the condition better, the picture on Long Covid is still incomplete.

Current indicators of it include persistent tiredness, anxiety, shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain, muscle aches and ‘brain fog’, which all form part of different bodily reactions to the virus.

Studies from the United States go a step further, with a report from the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention claiming the longer-term effect can contribute to lung function abnormalities, heart muscle inflammation, acute kidney injuries and neurological complaints.

What Causes Long Covid?

With science still playing catch up on understanding the virus, specific causes are still unknown, with an overactive immune response highlighted as a potential trigger.

This can cause internal damage to a patient, with particular concern over the impact on lung capacity.

Who is most at risk?

There are no clear indicators as to who can struggle with the long-lasting effects of the virus more, with mild infections often causing greater future damage.

Researchers have claimed there is growing concern over sufferers not being ‘believed’ regarding their symptoms and those in lower risk groups of contracting the virus are not exempt from the effects of Long Covid, if they do become infected.

 Image Credit: PA

What is the response?

NHS England has 70 dedicated Long Covid clinics, consisting of staff a range of specialisms, looking into long term treatment and referrals.

NICE are also working alongside the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidance Network (SIGN) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to develop an evolving set of guidelines for best practice.

Anyone experiencing symptoms for longer than month after recovery are advised to contact their GP, with further information available on the Covid-19 recovery process available at https://www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk/.

 

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