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'Long COVID' may affect multiple parts of body and mind, doctors say

Thu, 15th Oct 2020 00:01

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Ongoing illness after infection
with COVID-19, sometimes called "long COVID", may not be one
syndrome but possibly up to four causing a rollercoaster of
symptoms affecting all parts of the body and mind, doctors said
on Thursday.

In an initial report about long-term COVID-19, Britain's
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) said one common
theme among ongoing COVID patients - some of whom are seven
months or more into their illness - is that symptoms appear in
one physiological area, such as the heart or lungs, only to
abate and then arise again in a different area.

"This review highlights the detrimental physical and
psychological impact that ongoing COVID is having on many
people's lives," said Dr Elaine Maxwell, who led the report.

Many thousands of people worldwide have linked up on social
media platforms and online forums to share their experiences of
ongoing COVID-19 symptoms. Some call themselves "long haulers"
while others have named their condition "long
COVID".

According to UK-based patient group LongCovidSOS, data from
a King’s College London-devised symptom tracker app shows that
10% of COVID-19 patients remain unwell after three weeks, and up
to 5% may continue to be sick for months.

Maxwell, who presented the findings of the "Living with
COVID" report in an online media briefing, said health services
are already struggling "to manage these new and fluctuating
patterns of symptoms and problems".

She and her co-authors urged patients and doctors to log and
track symptoms so that health researchers can learn more about
the condition and how to ease it as swiftly as possible.

"Despite the uncertainties, people need help now," she said.
"We need to collect more data."

For this initial report, Maxwell's team held a focus group
with 14 members of a Facebook group called Long COVID.

Their testimony suggested ongoing COVID can be cyclical,
Maxwell said, with symptoms fluctuating in severity and moving
around the body including around the respiratory system, the
brain, cardiovascular system and heart, the kidneys, the gut,
the liver and the skin.

"There are powerful stories that ongoing COVID symptoms are
experienced by people of all ages, and people from all
backgrounds," the report said.

Maxwell said an urgent priority is to establish a working
diagnosis recognised by healthcare services, employers and
government agencies to help patients get support.

"While this is a new disease and we are learning more about
its impact..., services will need to be better equipped to
support people with ongoing COVID, as emerging evidence is
showing there are significant psychological and social impacts
that will have long term consequences," the report said.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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