In Brief

‘Long Covid’ could be caused by combination of four syndromes, experts claim

National Institute for Health Research says persistent health impacts are still unclear

“Long Covid”, when patients experience lasting health impacts after recovering from a bout of Covid-19, could be caused by four different syndromes, research has revealed.

As thousands of survivors report a range of long-lasting symptoms, academics at the National Institute for Health Research - led by Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty - were asked to investigate the trend.

The research, published today, found the symptoms can be grouped into four separate categories: post-intensive care syndrome, post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS), permanent organ damage and long term Covid syndrome.

The experts also warned that “even children can suffer and it can’t be assumed that people who are at lower risk of severe illness and death from Covid-19 are also at low risk of lasting side effects”, the Daily Mail reports.

Also known as “ongoing Covid”, longer term impacts include damage to the lungs, brain, heart and cardiovascular system, as well as the kidneys, gut, liver and skin, the report says. Symptoms include anxiety, fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle pain and heart arrhythmias or rhythm problems.

The researchers also warned of the psychological damage caused by ongoing Covid, with patients experiencing “fatigue and brain fog in a way that’s consistent with PVFS”, an issue seen after enterovirus or rubella infection. 

Dr Elaine Maxwell, the lead author of the report, said the “overwhelming message is this is not a linear condition”, adding that the “lack of distinction between these syndromes may explain the challenges people are having in being believed and accessing services”.

The report recommends coming up with a “working diagnosis for ongoing Covid-19” to help people get the support they need.

Although most people with Covid-19 recover within two or three weeks, it is “increasingly clear” that there may be “tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands, who have been left experiencing symptoms months after becoming infected”, The Guardian says.

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