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Half of Covid hospital survivors still have lingering symptom 2 years on, study finds

By Jess Knibbs

For those who have recovered from Covid-19, having long-term effects and symptoms are an unfortunate reality.

In fact, an estimated 1.3 million people in the UK are experiencing self-reported Long Covid symptoms, according to the Office for National Statistics.

A new study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine found evidence showing that a considerable proportion of people who have recovered from Covid-19 showed at least one main lingering symptom, up to two years after they were infected.

Researchers found the prevailing symptoms included long-term effects on multiple organs in the body.

While most Covid survivors had been back to work since falling ill, half still suffered with fatigue, the follow-up study found.

"Regardless of initial disease severity, Covid-19 survivors had longitudinal improvements in physical and mental health, with most returning to their original work within two years; however, the burden of symptomatic sequelae remained fairly high," the Lancet said in the summary of its study.

Fatigue and muscle pain are two of the most common symptoms of Long Covid (Getty Images)

"Covid-19 survivors had a remarkably lower health status than the general population at two years.

"The study findings indicate that there is an urgent need to explore the pathogenesis of Long Covid and develop effective interventions to reduce the risk of Long Covid," it added.

Study co-leader Rachel Evans of the National Institute for Health and Care Research explained: "The limited recovery from five months to one year after hospitalisation in our study across symptoms, mental health, exercise capacity, organ impairment and quality of life is striking."

Even people with a mild infection can go on to develop Long Covid, the study has found (Getty Images)

"Without effective treatments, Long Covid could become a highly prevalent new long-term condition," warned study co-lead Christopher Brightling of the University of Leicester.

The most common Long Covid symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Poor sleep
  • Slowing down physically
  • Breathlessness

Many people feel better in a few days or weeks, and most will make a full recovery within 12 weeks, says the NHS.

The national health body added: “But for some people, symptoms can last longer.

“The chances of having long-term symptoms does not seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first get Covid-19.

“People who had mild symptoms at first can still have long-term problems.”

Of people with self-reported Long Covid, 275,000 (21 percent) first had (or suspected they had) Covid less than 12 weeks previously; 947,000 people (71 percent) first had (or suspected they had) it at least 12 weeks previously, and 554,000 (42 percent) first got infected at least one year previously.

Long Covid symptoms adversely affected the day-to-day activities of 836,000 people (63 percent of those with self-reported Long Covid), with 244,000 (18 percent) reporting that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been "limited a lot".

Fatigue continued to be the most common symptom reported as part of individuals' experience of Long Covid (50 percent), followed by shortness of breath (37 percent).

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