Long Covid victim discusses daily impact of virus
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The emergence of new Covid variants has pushed case rates back up across the UK, although there are early signs the current wave is cresting. The upswing has been driven by a combination of factors: more people are mixing due to a loosening of restrictions and the emergence of BA.2 – a transmissible subvariant of Omicron. With increasing numbers of people becoming infected, there are growing fears long Covid will become an even greater public health crisis than it currently is.
The term describes symptoms of Covid that last weeks or months after the infection has gone.
A study published in the journal Elsevier last month sought to classify the symptoms of long Covid based on their prevalence.
Researchers conducted a systematic review of the literature to rank the most common symptoms.
After screening 3,209 studies, a total of 63 studies were eligible, with a total COVID-19 population of 257,348.
The researchers found the most commonly reported symptoms were fatigue, dyspnea (shortness of breath), sleep disorder, and difficulty concentrating at three to six month follow-up.
Between six to nine months, effort intolerance, fatigue, sleep disorder, and dyspnea were most prevalent.
Stretching from nine months to 12 months, researchers found fatigue to be the most prevalent.
This was followed by dyspnea, fatigue, dyspnea, sleep disorder, and myalgia.
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“This systematic review found that a large proportion of patients experience post-acute COVID-19 syndrome three to 12 months after recovery from the acute phase of COVID-19,” the researchers concluded.
The importance of getting vaccinated
A recent review suggests getting vaccinated blunts some of the impact of long Covid.
The review, conducted by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), shows that people who have had one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are less likely to develop long Covid than those who remain unvaccinated.
The UKHSA undertook a rapid evidence review looking at the effects of vaccination against long Covid or post-Covid symptoms.
The review included 15 UK and international studies that were undertaken up until January 2022.
Eight of the studies in the review looked at the effect of vaccinations administered before infection.
Most of these studies suggest that vaccinated people (one or two doses) were less likely to develop symptoms of long Covid following infection compared with unvaccinated people – in the short term and long term (four weeks up until six months after infection).
The data from some of the studies included in the review suggests that:
- People with COVID-19 who received two doses of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Janssen vaccine, were about half as likely as people who received one dose or were unvaccinated to develop long Covid symptoms lasting more than 28 days
- Vaccine effectiveness against most post-Covid symptoms in adults was highest in people aged 60 years and over, and lowest for younger participants (19 to 35 years).
The remaining studies looked at the effects of vaccination among people who already had long Covid symptoms.
Four studies specifically compared long Covid symptoms before and after vaccination.
Three of these studies suggested that more people with COVID-19 reported an improvement than a worsening in symptoms after vaccination, either immediately or over several weeks.
Another three studies of unvaccinated people with long Covid compared ongoing symptoms in those who either went on to receive a vaccination or remained unvaccinated.
These studies suggested that those who were vaccinated were less likely to report long Covid symptoms after vaccination than people who remained unvaccinated over the same period.
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