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Surge in self-reported long Covid cases a year after infection

Surge in self-reported long Covid cases a year after infection
Sick woman lying in bed

The number of people in the UK reporting symptoms a year after contracting coronavirus has more than quadrupled since March, official long Covid data has shown.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures as of 2 May, released on Friday last week, found 376,000 people had reported symptoms a year after they had Covid-19 or suspected Covid-19 – a significant jump from 70,000 in March.

Overall, around one million people in the UK reported they were suffering from long Covid, which is defined in these statistics as symptoms lasting for more than four weeks after initial infection. Some healthcare professionals also define it as starting after 12 weeks. 

The ONS also reported long Covid was affecting the day-to-day activities of 650,000 people, with 192,000 of those saying their ability to undertake day-to-day activities had been limited a lot.

Fatigue was the most common reported symptom (547,000 people), followed by shortness of breath (405,000), muscle ache (313,000), and difficulty concentrating (285,000).

Symptoms were more prevalent in healthcare workers, people aged 35 to 69, females, those living in the most deprived areas and those with another activity-limiting health condition or disability. They were least likely among people from an Asian background.

Julie Stanborough, head of health analysis and life events at the ONS, said the higher prevalence of long Covid in healthcare workers was ‘largely driven by the risk of initial infection and other sociodemographic factors such as age, sex and location’.     

Community and primary care nurses warned last month that they need extra resources to cope with rising long Covid cases, as many of these patients will need long-term and complex care. 

Health Education England chief nurse Mark Radford has also that said nurses who specialise in long Covid are needed across healthcare settings to respond to rising numbers of cases.

Research has shown fatigue is the most common symptom of long Covid, which may be as many as four different syndromes.

Dr Elaine Maxwell, scientific advisor at the National Institute for Health Research, has busted the common myth that people with long Covid symptoms are just anxious and need to be encouraged to get moving again, in her article for Nursing in Practice.

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