Long COVID symptoms ‘affect one in eight’

One in eight people who get coronavirus develop at least one symptom of long COVID, one of the most comprehensive studies on the condition to date has suggested.

With more than half a billion coronavirus cases recorded worldwide since the start of the pandemic, there has been rising concern about the lasting symptoms seen in people with long COVID.

However almost none of the existing research has compared long COVID sufferers with people who have never been infected, making it possible that some of the health problems were not caused by the virus.

A new study published in The Lancet journal asked more than 76,400 adults in the Netherlands to fill out an online questionnaire on 23 common long COVID symptoms.

Between March 2020 and August 2021, each participant filled out the questionnaire 24 times.

During that period, more than 4,200 of them, 5.5 percent, reported catching COVID. Of those with COVID, over 21 percent had at least one new or severely increased symptom three to five months after becoming infected.

However, nearly 9 percent of a control group which did not have COVID reported a similar increase.

This suggested that 12.7 percent of those who had COVID, around one in eight, suffered from long-term symptoms, the study said. The research also recorded symptoms before and after COVID infection, allowing the researchers to further pinpoint exactly what was related to the virus.

It found that common long COVID symptoms include chest pain, breathing difficulties, muscle pain, loss of taste and smell, and general fatigue.

One of the study’s authors, Aranka Ballering of the Dutch University of Groningen, said long COVID was “an urgent problem with a mounting human toll.”

“By looking at symptoms in an uninfected control group and in individuals both before and after SARS-CoV-2 infection, we were able to account for symptoms which may have been a result of non-infectious disease health aspects of the pandemic, such as stress caused by restrictions and uncertainty,” she said.

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