LONG Covid could be a bigger public health crisis than excess deaths as the condition leaves patients in agony, experts have warned.
Patients overcoming the coronavirus and suffering with long Covid have reported symptoms such as chronic fatigue – months after they first contracted the virus.
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It was previously reported that 60,000 Brits struck by “long-Covid” have been ill for three months with some left in wheelchairs.
People who were previously fit and healthy who have recovered from the virus have in some cases been left bed ridden and unable to climb the stairs.
Now a report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change is recommending that the Government highlight the issue in awareness campaigns.
The report, titled Long Covid: Reviewing the Science and Assessing the Risk, states that awareness campaigns could encourage the use of face masks and coverings.
The authors of the report state: “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.”
Also writing in the report, Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London said at the start of the pandemic little attention was given to people who were not hospitalised with the coronavirus.
This he states – made up for 99 per cent of cases.
Prof Spector said Covid-19 was not just a bad case of the flu and said it behaved more like an autoimmune disease, affecting multiple systems in the body.
In March Prof Spector helped launch the Covid Symptom Tracker App.
The app has helped detect hotspot areas and tracks cases across the UK.
Data from the app last week revealed that while cases were still broadly on the rise – that a flattening was occurring.
Looking at long Covid and those suffering with it, Prof Spector said many people “didn’t get better after two weeks as expected”.
He said: “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 states that around 10 per cent of those who participated in the study had symptoms of long covid – which include brain fog and fatigue – for a month, with between 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent still experiencing such symptoms after three months.
The authors of the report stated that these appear to be the most reliable statistics on which to base a rough estimate of the scale of long Covid in the population.
The authors also claimed that while there is no clear evidence about prevalence in asymptomatic cases, it is likely to be lower than these percentages.
Throughout the pandemic the messaging has been clear that the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are more at risk from the virus than younger generations.
Children were also sent back to school on the advice they were not super spreaders of the infection.
The study found that long Covid is rare in people under the age of 19 and those over the age of 65.
There is a higher prevalence of people of a working age, women are more affected than men and the median age for someone developing long Covid is 45.
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.”