One in seven people who have coronavirus infection have “long Covid”, research suggests.
The debilitating set of symptoms don’t just affect those who are old or have been severely ill.
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Long Covid can strike anyone, research suggestsCredit: Shutterstock
Young and once fit and healthy people are also struck with persistent symptoms or health problems that force them to take time off work.
US researchers looked at almost 267,000 adults who had Covid between January and October 2020.
They recorded if any had been diagnosed with one of 50 conditions six months after testing positive.
These included chronic respiratory failure, heart rhythm problems, diabetes, anxiety, fatigue and memory loss.
Some 14 per cent had at least one new condition that required medical attention after coronavirus illness, according to the study in the British Medical Journal.
The figures match those from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – that almost one in seven people in the UK who test positive for Covid are still suffering symptoms three months later.
People develop new conditions all the time, and so the researchers compared the Covid survivors to the general population and who had another respiratory condition, like a cold.
Those who had had Covid were found to be more at risk of ongoing health issues than people in the other groups.
For comparison, nine per cent of people in a group of people who never had Covid in 2020 were diagnosed with a new condition in the six month study period (five per cent lower).
And around 12.5 per cent of people who had suffered another respiratory illness were diagnosed.
Long Covid appeared to affect people of all walks of life.
The most at risk were older people, those with already underlying ill health, and who had been to hospital for Covid.
But younger (under 50) and healthy individuals were also at “increased risk” of a new condition compared with other people their age who never had Covid.
An analysis of all current evidence on long Covid found more than 50 symptoms in so-called “long haulers”.
Researchers in the US ranked each symptom based on how common they were in the 47,910 patients studied.
The list was as follows:
- Fatigue: 80 per cent
- Headache: 58 per cent
- Attention disorder: 27 per cent
- Hair loss: 25 per cent
- Shortness of breath: 24 per cent
- Loss of taste: 23 per cent
- Loss of smell: 21 per cent
- Post activity breathlessness: 21 per cent
- Joint pain: 19 per cent
- Cough: 19 per cent
- Sweat: 17 per cent
- Nausea or vomit: 16 per cent
- Chest pain: 16 per cent
- Memory loss: 16 per cent
- Hearing loss or tinnitus: 15 per cent
- Anxiety: 13 per cent
- Depresson: 12 per cent
- Digestive disorders: 12 per cent
- Weight loss: 12 per cent
- Skin problems: 12 per cent
- Resting heart rate increase: 11 per cent
- Palpitations: 11 per cent
- Pain: 11 per cent
- Intermittenet fever: 11 per cent
- Sleep disorder: 11 per cent
- Reduced pulmonary diffusing capacity: 10 per cent
- Sleep apnea: 8 per cent
- Chills: 7 per cent
- Health care related mental health: 7 per cent
- Psychiatric illness: 6 per cent
- Red eyes: 6 per cent
- Pulmonary fibrosis: 5 per ent
- Flushing: 5 per cent
- Diabetes: 4 per cent
- Sputum/mucus: 3 per cent
- Swelling of limb: 3 per cent
- Dizziness: 3 per cent
- Stroke: 3 per cent
- Throat pain: 3 per cent
- Mood disorders: 2 per cent
- Dysphoria: 2 per cent
- OCD: 2 per cent
- New high blood pressure: 1 per cent
- Heart inflammation: 1 per cent
- Kidney failure: 1 per cent
- PTSD: 1 per cent
- Arrhythmia: 0.4 per cent
- Paranoia: 0.3 per cent
Plus seven other abnormalities from lab tests, scans or examinations, including abnormal chest scan 34 per cent
Researchers, including from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, suggested “long Covid” would burden health systems in the future.
They warned as the number of individuals infected with coronavirus worldwide continues to rise, “the number of survivors with potential sequelae after covid will continue to grow”.
In a linked editorial, Elaine Maxwell, from the National Institute for Health Research, said: “Healthcare professionals should be alert to the possibility of long Covid in anyone with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.
“How to treat these longer-term consequences is now an urgent research priority.”
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to people dealing with long Covid because the range of side effects are so varied.
The NHS has had to set up clinics across the country with a range of specialists ranging from cardiologists to psychologists.
Fatigue has been the most reported symptom of long Covid in many studies, including the one published today.
Headache, attention disorder, hair loss and shortness of breath are also common.
It comes after a study has revealed that over half of people who have long Covid feel better once they’ve had a vaccine.
Of over 800 people, 56.7 per cent of those who participated felt an overall improvement in symptoms after receiving a coronavirus vaccine.
The participants were asked to wait a week to report their symptoms – so as not to confuse them with any possible side effects the vaccines may have produced.