20% of coronavirus sufferers may develop long COVID, figures suggest

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·2 min read
A redhead girl in a medical mask has a headache. Woman with a sore head sits on the bed
Long COVID can produce symptoms including headaches and body aches. (Getty/posed by model)

A fifth of people who have had coronavirus go on to suffer from long COVID, according to newly released estimates.

Overall, around 186,000 people in private households in England in the week beginning 22 November were living with COVID-19 symptoms that had persisted for between five and 12 weeks, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

When looking at symptoms among people five weeks after testing positive for COVID, the ONS estimated that 11.5% of respondents were still experiencing fatigue, 11.4% had a cough and 10.1% had a headache.

Some 8.2% were still experiencing a loss of taste, while 7.9% still had a loss of smell.

 A 'Stop The Spread of Coronavirus' sign seen at a closed and empty Covent Garden Market. Most shops, restaurants and businesses have closed as the second month-long nationwide Covid 19 lockdown begins in England. (Photo by Vuk Valcic / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A 'Stop the spread of coronavirus' sign seen at a closed and empty Covent Garden Market in London. (PA)

All estimates are based on responses collected as part of the ONS COVID-19 infection survey, which tests thousands of people for coronavirus whether or not they have symptoms.

The data, which does not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutions, also found that around 10% of respondents testing positive for COVID-19 exhibit symptoms for a period of 12 weeks or longer.

Watch: Sufferers battle to shake of long COVID

The ONS is also investigating COVID-19 complications by looking at GP records, hospital data, deaths and testing figures.

It analysed the healthcare records of patients in hospital with COVID-19 until the end of August and compares their complication rate to the end of September with people in hospital but not with the disease.

The results suggest that patients in hospital with coronavirus have higher rates of metabolic, cardiovascular, kidney and liver disease compared to those without.

Higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease were particularly notable, the ONS said.

It added: “While these results do not confirm the presence of a causal relationship between COVID-19 hospitalisation and subsequent adverse health events, they are suggestive of a statistical association that warrants further investigation.”

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What are the symptoms of long COVID?

“Long COVID” is a term that refers to those people for whom the symptoms of coronavirus continue after the initial two-week period detailed by the World Health Organization.

Those who suffer from coronavirus symptoms after that are sometimes known as “COVID long-haulers”.

In August, a cross-party group of MPs identified 16 symptoms of long COVID after examining submissions from patients.

They are:

  1. Exhaustion

  2. Vomiting

  3. Diarrhoea

  4. High temperature

  5. Hair loss

  6. Chest pain

  7. Hallucinations

  8. Lasting breathing problems

  9. Purple toes

  10. Chills

  11. Disorientation

  12. Muscle/body ache

  13. Insomnia

  14. Arrhythmia (a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat)

  15. Tachycardia (where the heart beats more than 100 times per minute)

  16. Cognitive problems – memory loss, confusion

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