Long Covid could be bigger public health problem than excess deaths, warns professor
The effects of long Covid could turn out to be a bigger public health problem than excess deaths, an academic has warned.
Those suffering with so-called long Covid have reported breathlessness, chronic fatigue and brain fog – months after initially falling ill with the virus.
Professor Tim Spector at King’s College London revealed that in many people, coronavirus behaves more like an autoimmune disease, affecting multiple systems in the body.
Mirror Online has interviewed multiple people who say they’re suffering the effects – with one saying she’s had awful coronavirus symptoms for six months.
Stephanie, 33, from London, began feeling symptoms in March but she still has had no sense of taste and smell, she suffers brain fog and chronic fatigue and says just walking across her flat leaves her chest feeling tight.
She said she’s scared she’ll ‘never be the same again’.
A report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change is recommending that the Government highlight the issue in awareness campaigns.
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The authors of the paper, titled Long Covid: Reviewing the Science and Assessing the Risk, say they believe awareness campaigns “would help drive compliance with containment measures such as the use of masks”.
In the report’s foreword, Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, said that in the first few months of the pandemic, little attention was paid to the infected population who were not sick enough to go to hospital, who made up 99% of cases.
He said it turned out that Covid-19 was not just a bad flu, but in many people it behaved more like an autoimmune disease, affecting multiple systems in the body.
Prof Spector said the app launched in March by his group at King’s College London and the health-science company ZOE to capture the wider range of symptoms people were experiencing received data from more than 4 million people.
Researchers learned that “a great many people didn’t get better after two weeks as expected”, Prof Spector said, adding: “We kept following them and found out that a significant number still had problems after months.
“This is the other side of Covid: the long-haulers that could turn out to be a bigger public-health problem than excess deaths from Covid-19, which mainly affect the susceptible elderly.”
The report said the King’s College study indicates around 10% of those taking part in the survey had symptoms of long Covid for a month, with between 1.5% and 2% still experiencing such symptoms after three months.
The authors said these appear to be the most reliable statistics on which to base a rough estimate of the scale of long Covid in the population, adding that while there is no clear evidence about prevalence in asymptomatic cases, it is likely to be lower than these percentages.
The report said long Covid seems rare in those under 18 and over 65, with higher prevalence among those of working age.
The median age of those affected is 45 and it affects women more than men.
“As Professor Spector says, long Covid is likely a bigger issue than excess deaths as a result of Covid, but, crucially, the risk must be considered alongside the economic impact and other health impacts linked to Covid restrictions,” the paper concluded.
Among their recommendations, the authors suggest further studies, awareness campaigns and mass testing to help with diagnosis.
Daniel Sleat, co-author of the report, said: “While long Covid poses a significant risk, it must be assessed alongside the wider impacts of Covid restrictions, both in economic and health terms, as governments determine their next steps on containment measures to avoid a full lockdown.”
A fit yoga fanatic “brought to her knees” by coronavirus has been housebound for seven months due to “long Covid”.
Alisa Gabay, 36, from Hampstead, north London, is one of many “long haulers” still suffering from Covid-19 symptoms months after first falling sick.
She has been battling a horrific range of side effects, including “brain fog’ and ‘choking’ several times a night.
Miss Gabay previously practised Bikram yoga three times a week and cycled around 25kms every other day.
However, she now struggles with even making breakfast and has only left her home five times in the past seven months.
Claire Hastie who founded the long-Covid Support Group, with 20,000 members, says survivors have been “invisible” for months.
Single mum Claire, 48, used to cycle 13 miles to work but can’t walk 13 metres after Covid.
She is largely confined to a wheelchair, cared for by James, 16, and twins Thomas and William, 11, who have also had long-Covid.
She said: “Many are left to recover at home with no medical care, though lots have had times when we thought we might die.
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