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'Long COVID' could be worse health crisis than deaths

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 5/10/2020 Richard Wood

The long-term effects of coronavirus on survivors pose a more severe public health problem than the pandemic's excessive death toll, a British scientist has warned.

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London, said information taken from four million patients through a smartphone app suggested that about one in 50 people infected with coronavirus still reported symptoms three months later.

The study said people suffering from "long COVID" experienced breathlessness, chronic fatigue, muscle aches and poor concentration, often long after initially contracting the illness.

READ MORE: What is 'long COVID' and what are the symptoms?

a man and a woman standing in a room: A new study warns 'long covid' patients pose a greater health threat than patient deaths. © Nine A new study warns 'long covid' patients pose a greater health threat than patient deaths.

Professor Spector said these symptoms were most notable among people of working age and affected women more often than men.

About 10 per cent of patients with COVID-19 symptoms experienced them for a month, and 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent still had them after three months.

Wordwide, that equates to millions of people living with a range of under-researched symptoms.


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Professor Spector said COVID-19 commonly appears to develop like an autoimmune disease, attacking several aspects of the body's defences against infection.

The app data showed "a great many people" suffering coronavirus did not recover after two weeks and continued with health problems for months.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: A study has warned millions of people across the world may be living with a range of under-researched COVID-19 symptoms. © Getty A study has warned millions of people across the world may be living with a range of under-researched COVID-19 symptoms.

READ MORE: COVID-19 myths and misconceptions busted by WHO

"This is the other side of COVID: The long-haulers that could turn out to be a bigger public health problem than excess deaths from COVID-19, which mainly affect the susceptible elderly," he wrote.

Professor Spector warned that while little attention was given to the vast majority of patients who were not hospitalised with the virus - up to 99 per cent of cases - early during the pandemic, many are now likely to be experiencing "long COVID".

The study is published by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

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