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Your Covid-19 questions answered

Is ‘long Covid’ contagious?

23 December 2021 - 07:40
Long Covid is a persistence of Covid-19 symptoms long after the illness. Stock photo.
Long Covid is a persistence of Covid-19 symptoms long after the illness. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF / Diego_cervo

While many have developed persistent Covid-19 symptoms long after recovering from the virus, a condition known as “long Covid”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says it is not contagious.

Long Covid is generally diagnosed in cases where symptoms remain about four weeks after recovery or after a negative test.

While doctors advise continuing following health and safety protocols implemented during the pandemic, the WHO said it cannot be passed on to others.

“Post Covid-19 condition cannot be passed to others. Post Covid-19 condition is a long-term condition following infection with the virus that causes Covid-19.”

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said causes for symptoms may include bacterial pneumonia, tuberculosis and worsening symptoms relating to underlying comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension.

According to the institution there is no way to test patients directly for long Covid, and patients with persistent Covid-19 symptoms should be examined by healthcare professionals who will rule out other causes of the symptoms.

Johannesburg-based GP Marlin McKay told TimesLIVE earlier this year that “long Covid” may take a toll on the mental wellness of sufferers who often feel helpless against it. 

“One of the methods I use is reassurance. Some patients are made to feel as if it is in their heads. They are told to be grateful to be alive,” he said.

“You can’t test long Covid and you can’t do an X-ray. It is your word against the doctor’s. It creates a lot of anxiety and patients have post-traumatic stress because they survive Covid-19 and end up stuck with this.

“Patients complain that it’s even more debilitating than Covid-19. Brain fog, memory loss, persistent headaches, persistent shortness of breath and coughing. There is no solution. We don't know how long it’s going to last. We don’t have any specific medication that can take it away."


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