Employers are being urged to provide support for staff suffering from long-term health impacts of the virus when they return to work.
Occupational health specialist Clare Rayner, writing for the British Medical Journal, said: “As our understanding develops on the length of time that symptoms persist, there may be further health implications relevant to infectivity and return to work.”
“Individuals will need monitoring and follow-up, with understanding and acceptance shown by managers and colleagues.”
She said prolonged illness and relapsing, the “dual hallmarks” of the virus will have significant implications for the individual.
“Consequences may include a prolonged sickness absence and multidisciplinary health needs. A successful recovery requires a gradual rehabilitation and an individualised return to work plan.”
The advice comes as the government announced an £8.4 million research study into the long-term health effects of coronavirus.
The study aims to recruit around 10,000 people across the UK who have been discharged from hospital with the virus. Researchers will look at how individual characteristics may influence recovery, such as gender or ethnicity.
Symptoms of Covid-19 have varied: some people have displayed no symptoms, while others have developed severe pneumonia or lost their lives.
Lingering effects of the disease which have been reported include fatigue, headaches, coughs, sore throats, delirium, anosmia (loss of smell) and chest pain.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, said: “As well as the immediate health impacts of the virus, it is also important to look at the longer-term impacts on health, which may be significant.
“We have rightly focused on mortality, and what the UK can do straight away to protect lives, but we should also look at how Covid-19 impacts on the health of people after they have recovered from the immediate disease.”
The study will be carried out by National Institute for Health Research and UK Research and Innovation.
Professor Chris Brightling, Consultant Respiratory Physician at Leicester’s Hospitals, the chief investigator for the study, said: “As we emerge from the first wave of the pandemic, we have new insights into the acute phase of this disease but very little information about patients’ long- term needs.
“It is vitally important that we rapidly gather evidence on the longer term consequences of contracting severe Covid-19 so we can develop and test new treatment strategies for them and other people affected by future waves of the disease.”
Read the full announcement on the £8.4m study here
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