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Your Covid-19 questions answered

How many Covid-19 infections become long Covid?

13 July 2022 - 07:00
Common symptoms of long Covid include shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction and fatigue. Stock photo.
Common symptoms of long Covid include shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction and fatigue. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/milkos

A recent study found nearly a quarter (23%) of people with Covid-19 develop long Covid.

The research, published in Scientific Reports, looked at a nationally representative sample — and not a hospital-based sample — and accounted for pre-infection symptoms.

It found that the most common symptoms of long Covid include headaches (22%), runny or stuffy nose (19%), abdominal discomfort (18%), fatigue (17%) and diarrhoea (13%).

“Covid long-haulers are more likely to experience hair loss, headache, and sore throat at the time of infection compared to their counterparts whose symptoms reduce more quickly. Also, those who are obese are at higher risk of experiencing long Covid,” it added.

Long Covid is defined as a persistence of Covid-19 symptoms about four weeks after recovery or a negative test.

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. It​ said there is no way to test patients directly for long Covid, and encouraged those with persistent Covid-19 symptoms to be examined by a healthcare professional.

Johannesburg-based GP Marlin McKay told TimesLIVE long Covid may take a toll on the mental wellness of sufferers. 

“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. 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,” said McKay,

He said the vaccine reduces the chance of getting long Covid.


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