What is ‘long COVID’?

Scientists are still working to understand the impacts and reasons for ongoing symptoms in some patients.

For some people, the symptoms of COVID-19 can last for weeks or even months. The long-term effects can range from ongoing fatigue and breathlessness, to serious complications including neurological symptoms.

Doctors and scientists are continuing to study the long-term consequences of the virus and there’s not yet any definitive information about who is likely to suffer these long-term effects, but it’s clear that young and healthy people can be affected.

Verified spoke to Dr Nisreen Alwan, Associate Professor in Public Health for Medicine at the University of Southampton. Dr Alwan dealt with ongoing symptoms of COVID-19 after she contracted the virus in March 2020, and has been campaigning for greater recognition of the condition.

Dr Alwan explained that as well as the significant impact on people’s physical health, long COVID also takes its toll on mental health, as anxiety can build as the symptoms continue to appear.

More than a year on from Dr Alwan’s experience, there are still no firm conclusions about why COVID-19 has a longer term impact on some people and not others. But awareness has increased, and long COVID is recognised as an important reason why we must all continue to protect ourselves and our communities.

In February 2021, a World Health Organization report suggested that 1 in 10 COVID patients still have symptoms 12 weeks after infection. The WHO’s Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, urged for long-COVID sufferers to be included in health policy responses to COVID-19 and called on “policy-makers to take the lead on this issue.”

COVID-19 continues to be a significant threat to all of us. Stay safe by taking the vaccine when it is offered, wearing a mask, maintaining physically distancing, and washing hands regularly.