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Home >Science >Health >Long Covid is turning out to be a greater concern than previously thought

People suffering from covid-19 are increasingly complaining of fatigue, fever, headaches and loss of smell for weeks, or even months, after the diagnosis. These people have also caught the attention of medical practitioners and support groups. Mint looks into the problem:

What is long covid and how prevalent is it?

Long covid refers to the phenomena where people continue to experience the effects of covid-19 for weeks or months. According to Randeep Guleria, director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, if symptoms persist for 4-12 weeks, it should be regarded as post-covid acute syndrome, while if symptoms persist for longer than 12 weeks, it should be marked as long covid. A study by Roberto Bernabei, Angelo Carfì, and Francesco Landi of 143 people hospitalized in Italy found that as much as 87.4% of the patients reported persistence of at least one symptom, with extreme fatigue being the most common.

What are long covid’s symptoms?

Two main groups of symptoms have been identified based on data shared by people on the Covid Symptom Study app. One group includes respiratory symptoms such as cough and difficulty in breathing, as well as fatigue and headaches. The other includes symptoms affecting various parts of the body, including the heart, gut, and brain. Palpitation, pins and needles, increased heart beats, and numbness, as well as ‘brain fog’ were also reported. A report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which studied 3,171 non-hospitalized covid patients, showed 69% had one or more out-patient visits over the six months.

Another battle
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Another battle

Can long covid impact survivors mentally?

Anxiety and depression have been seen as fallouts of long covid, with survivors suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). A study published in The Lancet Psychiatry at the beginning of this year suggested that adults suffering from long covid are more likely to be diagnosed with psychiatric conditions.

What does this mean for India?

There is no clear data about how many people have long covid in India, but we can get an idea from the UK, which saw a strong second wave as well. According to Office for National Statistics estimates, 1.1 million people reported long covid symptoms in the four weeks ending 6 March. More than two-thirds of them had symptoms for more than 12 weeks. India’s case-load in the second wave shows that the numbers for people with long covid could be much higher. This can put more stress on the already strained healthcare infrastructure.

What should be done to help patients?

Recovery from covid-19 is counted as those who have not died from the virus. However, experts believe monitoring the health of those who have recovered for up to a year is required to make sure they are really out of danger. Guleria has suggested rehabilitation of patients experiencing long covid and setting up of multidisciplinary post-covid clinics. Experts believe that for long covid survivors a multidisciplinary and multi-care approach would be needed because it can impact so many different organs.

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