'Long COVID' may be 4 different syndromes, UK health agency report finds

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Those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms months after becoming infected may not all be experiencing a single syndrome, but up to four different ones, according to a report published by the United Kingdom's National Institute for Health Research. 

Estimates suggest that 10 percent of COVID-19 patients experience symptoms for more than three weeks, and about 1 in 50 will still be ill at three months. Researchers and physicians reviewed COVID-19 data and interviewed post-hospitalized and non-hospitalized patients. They believe people experiencing long-term effects of COVID-19 may have different subtypes of what is commonly called "long COVID", and some patients may experience multiple types simultaneously. 

Four potential subtypes of long-lasting COVID-19: 

  • After-effects of intensive care. Many COVID-19 patients who have survived a period in intensive care are too weak to sit unaided or lift their arms off the bed, and some even struggle to speak or swallow. They may also be affected by depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.  
  • Post-viral fatigue. Many "long-haulers" report fatigue, aching muscles and difficulty concentrating. 
  • Lasting organ damage. Ongoing breathlessness, coughs or a racing pulse could be symptoms of lasting damage to the lungs or heart. Ongoing problems with the liver and skin have also been reported.
  • Fluctuating symptoms. A survey of long COVID support group members found 70 percent experienced fluctuations in type of virus symptoms, and 89 percent reported changes in the intensity of symptoms.

"We are not saying that we have identified four definitive syndromes," said Elaine Maxwell, PhD, review author and content lead for NIHR's Centre for Engagement and Dissemination. "We are raising this as a possibility and a possible explanation for why so many people feel they are not being believed or heard and are not getting access to supportive treatments."

More articles on public health:
Hospitalizations rise in 39 states; Pelosi sets Oct. 20 deadline for relief bill — 6 COVID-19 updates
23 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Oct. 19
The 4 counties that haven't reported a single COVID-19 case


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