According to the first peer-reviewed study of its sort from the United Kingdom, the Omicron variation of coronavirus is less likely to produce protracted COVID than earlier forms.
Using data from the ZOE COVID Symptom study app, researchers at King's College London discovered that the probabilities of having protracted COVID following infection were 20% to 50% lower during the Omicron wave in the UK than during the Delta wave. The figure changed based on the patient's age and when their last vaccination was administered.
Long-term COVID can be severe, with symptoms ranging from weariness to 'brain fog.' It can last weeks or months. It's becoming more widely recognized as a public health issue.
The King's study is believed to be the first academic study to suggest Omicron does not pose as big a risk of long COVID, although the scientists cautioned that this does not mean the number of long COVID patients is decreasing.
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Health authorities are urging people to use masks indoors this winter to limit the spread of the virus and save lives.[/caption]
While the probability of lengthy COVID was lower during Omicron, more people were infected, resulting in a larger number of people today suffering.
"It's fantastic news," lead researcher Dr Claire Steves told an interview, "but please don't decommission any of your lengthy COVID services."
In May, the Office for National Statistics in the United Kingdom reported that 438,000 persons in the country have long COVID as a result of Omicron infection, accounting for 24% of all long COVID patients.
It also said that the risk of persistent symptoms after Omicron was lower than after Delta, but only for persons who had received both vaccines. There was no statistical difference between individuals who were triple vaccinated and those who were not.
Long COVID was reported by 4.5 percent of the 56,003 people studied by King during Omicron's peak, December 2021-March 2022. During the Delta wave in June-November 2021, 10.8% of 41,361 persons were affected. It did not make a distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
While the study contrasted Delta and Omicron, Dr Steves noted earlier research has found no significant difference in long COVID risk between other variations.
More people are looking for long COVID symptoms online
While no figures have been recorded, Doctor Nirvana Luckraj is in a position to measure Australian interest in extended COVID information.
She is the chief medical officer of healthdirect, a government-funded organization that offers free medical advice online and over the phone.
"Since March of this year, there has been a big surge in the number of people seeking credible information about extended COVID," Dr Luckraj added.
"We have over 100,000 visitors a week who come to our website to look at our COVID and recovery material."
She estimates that 10 to 20% of COVID patients will have a post-COVID disease of some sort.
Fatigue, coughing, shortness of breath, memory problems, confusion, joint or muscle discomfort, worry or low mood, insomnia, and poor sleep are the most prevalent symptoms.
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Dr Nirvana Luckraj says doctors are publishing more information to help patients understand their long COVID journey better.[/caption]
"Studies have shown that patients who have had a more severe illness, such as one requiring intensive care, are at a higher risk of post-COVID-19 problems," Dr Luckraj stated.
"Those with other chronic illnesses, such as lung disease, diabetes, or hypertension, as well as those who are older and females, appear to be more likely to develop a lengthy COVID or post-COVID condition."
Doctors advise patients at higher risk to talk to their doctors about whether they are eligible for new antiviral drugs and to set up an access plan so they can acquire them within five days if they become ill.
Long COVID is anticipated to cause persistent economic disruption
In addition to the agony and suffering experienced by persons with long COVID, there is evidence that the disorder will impact the economy in other countries.
Professor Hensher cited recent remarks by the Bank of England governor, who told UK MPs last month that an increase in long-term sickness was slowing the economy's recovery from the pandemic.
"And they felt that the single biggest thing driving it was an increase in the number of people with long-term illness," he added. "They believe the most likely explanation for that was extended COVID."
He is pushing authorities to conduct surveys similar to those that have allowed the United Kingdom to keep a closer eye on long-term COVID prevalence.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare hopes to have a national dataset containing all COVID-19 case data by the end of this year.
This includes information on mortality, hospitalizations, elderly care, and vaccines, and will aid future research into COVID-19's medium and long-term health consequences. Professor Hensher, on the other hand, believes that a simpler household survey is now required.
"GPs are becoming increasingly concerned about the amount of work that is being presented in general practice on this," he said.