Many people suffering with ‘long Covid’ are still unable to fully work six months after their initial coronavirus infection, according to one of the largest studies into the long-term effects of the disease.
Patient-Led Research for Covid-19, a group of researchers who are also long Covid patients, found 65% of people had symptoms for at least six months after a confirmed or suspected Covid-19 infection, with the most common symptoms including fatigue, post-exertional malaise, cognitive dysfunction, neurological sensations, headaches, memory problems, insomnia, muscle aches and shortness of breath.
Forty-five per cent said they required a reduced work schedule, while 22% were not working at the time of the survey because of their health.
Some 3,762 people took part in the study, which was reported by The Guardian. They claimed to have experienced 205 symptoms across 10 organ systems, with the average person experiencing symptoms from nine organ systems.
Most participants reported having at least one pre-existing condition, such as allergies, migraine and asthma. Less than a third had a confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis.
Last month, 69 specialist long Covid clinics in England began taking referrals from GPs for people experiencing “brain fog”, anxiety, depression, breathlessness, fatigue and other debilitating symptoms associated with the illness. A further 12 sites are expected to open this month.
It is estimated one in five people with Covid-19 develop long-term symptoms, with around 186,000 people experiencing them for up to 12 weeks.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “The NHS is taking practical action to help patients suffering ongoing health issues as a result of coronavirus. Bringing expert clinicians together in these clinics will deliver an integrated approach to support patients access vital rehabilitation, as well as helping develop a greater understanding of long Covid and its debilitating symptoms.”
Dr Graham Burns, clinical lead at the long Covid centre at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, said: “In the first wave of the pandemic many people did not recover as quickly as they’d expected. We had no idea what long Covid was – the world had never seen Covid-19 before. We set up the clinic in Newcastle to support patients, but it has also been invaluable in helping us understand what long Covid is.”