Government releases new guidance on long-term health effects of COVID-19

The UK government has issued new guidance on the long-term health impact of coronavirusThe UK government has issued new guidance on the long-term health impact of coronavirus.

Released yesterday (7th September), it states that around 10% of mild COVID-19 cases who were not admitted to hospital reported symptoms lasting more than four weeks.

Additionally, a number of hospitalised cases reported symptoms lasting eight weeks or more after they were discharged.

Long-term effects

Persistent health problems include:

  • Respiratory symptoms and conditions such as chronic cough, shortness of breath and lung inflammation
  • Cardiovascular symptoms and disease such as chest tightness, acute myocarditis and heart failure
  • Prolonged loss or change of smell and taste
  • Mental health problems including depression, anxiety and cognitive difficulties
  • Inflammatory disorders such as myalgia, multi-system inflammatory syndrome and Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Persistent headaches
  • Fatigue, weakness and sleeplessness
  • Liver and kidney dysfunction.

The guidance advises recovering patients to speak to their GP about local support for long-term and persistent health problems.

It also refers to advice from last month regarding the correct mouth and oral health care for those recovering from COVID-19. It states: Poor oral health can impact a patient’s general health, hydration and nutrition.

‘Healthcare professionals should be aware that poor oral health may have an adverse effect on the progression and management of chronic systemic disease (eg diabetes, cardiovascular disease). Patients should be supported to re-establish daily preventive mouth care to promote good oral health.’

‘Long COVID’

This follows discussions over the prevalence of ‘long COVID’, a term that refers to those suffering from prolonged symptoms.

Tim Spector, a professor of epidemiology at King’s College London, said more than 300,000 people report symptoms lasting for longer than one month.

And up to 60,000 people may have experienced symptoms for more than three months, the Guardian reports.

Author’s analysis

For many, this new government guidance may be seen as long overdue.

It’s been five and a half months since the UK implemented lockdown, which is, arguably, plenty of time to assess the long-term impact among those with mild cases.

But of course, we are constantly learning new information about how COVID-19 manifests and persists. Acknowledging the prolonged health impact is definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to support for those affected.

This might lead us to ask: Is it time we stop measuring the impact of the virus by the death rate only and also consider the long-term health effects?

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