I’m leading a long Covid trial – it’s clear Britain has underestimated its impact | Amitava Banerjee

Scientists and politicians have focused on the short-term impact of the virus – but we can no longer leave chronic patients to struggle

Despite apprehension about high Covid-19 rates, my family Christmas in Yorkshire was wonderful. Unfortunately, the week after was marred by headache, fever and malaise. And a PCR test confirmed the worst – I had Covid-19 for the second time. My second encounter has been dominated by severe fatigue and reduced concentration, which though improving, have not yet resolved more than two weeks later. Worryingly, what I know about long Covid suggests that this could persist for several months – or longer.

The World Health Organization defines long Covid as ongoing symptoms “three months from the onset of Covid-19”. In December, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that more than 1.3 million people in the UK had symptoms for four weeks or more after Covid-19, of whom 892,000 people (70%) had symptoms that persisted for at least 12 weeks, and 506,000 (40%) for at least one year. Dr Melissa Heightman, who leads the University College London hospital specialist long Covid clinic says that breathlessness, fatigue, cough, myalgia, chest pain, headache, “brain fog” and palpitations are most commonly reported. But many other symptoms may be present.

Amitava Banerjee is professor of clinical data science and honorary consultant cardiologist at University College London and is leading the Stimulate-ICP study to investigate long Covid

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