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Source: United Kingdom – Executive Government & Departments

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have released estimates of the prevalence and duration of long-COVID symptoms and COVID-19 complications.

Dr David Strain, Clinical senior lecturer and honorary consultant, Co-Chair BMA Medical Academic Staff Committee, University of Exeter Medical School, said:

“These preliminary data are very concerning, suggesting that 10% of people who have experienced COVID are left with residual symptoms after 3 months – more than twice the rate than we previously thought. It also highlights that the majority of people who contract COVID have symptoms for over a month. 

“These data also give an insight into the range of complications occurring, for example the risk of a heart attack, stroke or heart failure being nearly 12 times higher in COVID patients than in comparable patients hospitalised with other infections, and the rates of developing diabetes or kidney failure being ~9 and ~10 times higher respectively. These confirm what we have seen working on the COVID wards, that this virus is more than a simple respiratory infection, but is a multi-system disease. In some ways, however, people affected by these complications are less unfortunate, as there is a pre-existing clear knowledge base and there are effective treatment strategies for these conditions. Of greater concern, are those with the non-specific fatigue, myalgia (muscle pains) and fevers that we have no real understanding of the causes, the risk factors or how to treat it.

“It is important to appreciate that these data mirror our experience of evaluating people with long COVID within the NHS, that the risks are not necessarily the same as those for a “poor” outcome from the primary disease or ultimately dying. This is happening to younger people, more women, than men – basically the population that were suggested to be at lower vulnerability from the initial disease, and therefore have been taking roles with higher hazard of coming into contact with the virus. The long term consequences for these individuals, and for the population as a whole, could be potentially devastating, in terms of physical manifestations for the individuals but also the economic impact of these individuals being unable to work.

“As with all experimental data analyses there are limitations. In the first wave testing was not widely available, therefore the denominator may be artificially lower. Paradoxically, however, as there does not appear to be a correlation between severity of primary disease and extent of Long COVID, it is possible that there are many more individuals with the condition that have not, as yet been recognised. The percentages, however, are very similar to those that were found in the Doctors tracker survey conducted by the British Medical Association  towards the end of the 1st Wave.”

All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:

Declared interests

Dr David Strain: I am on the NHS LongCovid Task force, I am the BMA Lead on Long COVID, a clinician that is part of the long-COVID service delivery team in the South West and am the Chief of investigator of a study looking into the genetics of Long COVID.

MIL OSI United Kingdom