While most sufferers can recover quickly from Covid-19, some are still feeling the effects months after contracting it.
This is known as ‘long Covid’ which experts say lasts for more than 12 weeks.
Long-term effects aren’t just seen in those who were admitted into hospital or who felt seriously ill during the initial stage of having the virus – it can affect anyone who had Covid.
The Government is facing fresh calls to compensate frontline workers, such as NHS staff, who are suffering from the long-term effects of Covid-19 after contracting it earlier on in the pandemic, Cambridgeshire Live reports.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to recognise long Covid as an occupational disease.
What are the symptoms?
Long Covid usually presents itself with a cluster of symptoms that can change over time and affect more than just the respiratory system.
Lasting symptoms can include fatigue, breathlessness, anxiety and depression, palpitations, chest pains, joint or muscle pain, and not being able to think straight – also described as ‘brain frog’.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has a list of symptoms that have been reported by people who are supposedly suffering from long Covid.
Their list of symptoms include inflammation of the heart muscle, lung function abnormalities, acute kidney injury and rashes, as well as neurological complaints, such as taste, smell and concentration issues.
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Given the illness has such a wide range of symptoms and presents differently in different people, it can make it hard for doctors to diagnose and treat the condition – especially since it is an ever-changing disease we are still learning about.
Scientists from the UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), who reviewed the available evidence of the symptoms in October 2020, believe ongoing Covid may not be one illness but at least four different syndromes.
What is the cause of long Covid?
As Covid-19 is still a relatively new disease, medical experts are still trying to understand more about it – including what causes long Covid.
Sars-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, can trigger an immune response which is above that of the norm, which can then cause damage throughout the body.
Some experts believe the immune system does not return to normal after Covid-19 and this could be one of the reasons for prolonged ill-health and long Covid.
One US study suggested low hormone levels in patients are a likely link to long Covid.
How widespread is it?
One in five people who tested positive for coronavirus have gone on to develop longer-term symptoms, according to the most recent estimates.
Data from the Office for National Statistics published in December 2020 suggested around 186,000 people suffer problems for up to 12 weeks
But research also suggests many patients with long Covid have been unable to fully return to work six months after they were infected.
There is also anecdotal evidence that indicated children can be susceptible to long Covid as well as adults – though throughout the pandemic it has been said that children do not become severely ill as often as adults.
What’s being done about long Covid?
Across England there are now almost 70 clinics specifically designed to address long Covid, using doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists to offer physical and psychological assessments and refer patients to the right treatment and rehabilitation services.
Those worried about their symptoms four weeks or more after having coronavirus can contact their GP, who may recommend blood tests and a chest X-ray as part of the investigation.
The NHS also has a Your Covid Recovery plan, which contains advice, particularly for those who needed hospital treatment, and is available online here.