1.3m people living with long Covid, suggests survey

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An estimated 1.3 million people in the UK are still living with the effects of long Covid, a study from the Office of National Statistics suggests.

Although the study set a lower threshold of four weeks, the majority of survey respondents (70%) said they were still experiencing symptoms after contracting Covid twelve weeks previously.

Fatigue continued to be the most common symptom (51%), followed by loss of smell (37%), shortness of breath (36%), and difficulty concentrating (28%).

Symptoms adversely affected the day-to-day activities of 64% of those with self-reported long Covid, with 247,000 (20%) reporting that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been 'limited a lot'.

Fatigue is the most common symptom reported by long Covid sufferers. Photograph: iStock

There is no universally agreed definition of long Covid. But NICE guidance defines it as symptoms that continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.

The guidance says that people can have wide-ranging and fluctuating symptoms after acute Covid‑19, which can change in nature over time.

The data comes from the UK Covid-19 Infection Survey of 352,000 people from November and early December last year. It is self-reported data rather than a measure of clinically diagnosed post-Covid-19 syndrome, the ONS stressed and is a representative survey.

Dr David Strain, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter, said it was positive that figures of long Covid had not risen commensurate with the recent high number of cases.

But he added over 800,000 people say their day-to-day activities are significantly affected more than three months after catching Covid and nearly a quarter of a million had reported a dramatic impact on their quality of life. 

“As we continue to see case numbers of Omicron rise, we must be wary that our reliance purely on hospitalisations and death as a measure of the risk from Covid could grossly underestimate the public health impact of our current Covid strategy.”

Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following Coronavirus, ONS study here


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