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Number of Brits with long Covid hits new high

The number of Britons living with long Covid is at its highest level since official statistics on the phenomenon were first collected a year ago.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics published on Thursday showed that an estimated 1.7 million people, or 2.7 per cent of the UK population, reported as of March 5 having symptoms that lasted more than four weeks after having or suspected they had the disease on March 5 had. This represents a slight increase from 2.4 percent about a month earlier.

According to Imperial College London’s React-1 study the latest UK infection figures are more than 40 percent higher than the previous peak during the first wave of the Omicron variant in January, in part due to waning vaccine protection.

The data showed the impact on the lives of those affected long covid The symptoms affected the daily activities of 1.1 million people, or about two-thirds of those who said they had the disease. About one in five said their ability to complete everyday tasks was “very limited.”

Fatigue was the most common symptom, reported by just over half of those surveyed, followed by shortness of breath at 34 percent, loss of smell at 28 percent and muscle aches at 24 percent.

The exact causes of long Covid and the prognosis for those affected remain unclear despite a growing body of research.

The data suggest that those under the age of 50 are more likely to be affected by the syndrome. As a proportion of the UK population, the prevalence of self-reported long Covid was highest in people aged between 35 and 49.

Also at greater risk were women, people living in disadvantaged areas, those working in social care, teaching and education, or healthcare, and those with other activity-limiting medical conditions or disabilities.

The data showed 422,000, or just under one in four people with self-reported long Covid, had first had or suspected the disease less than 12 weeks previously.

69 percent had been ill at least 12 weeks previously; 45 percent at least a year earlier; or 4 percent at least two years earlier.

The data is broken down by the symptom-triggering Covid variant. Of people with self-reported long covid, 33 percent became infected first before alpha was the main variant, 15 percent during alpha wave, 27 percent in the delta period, and 19 percent after omicron became dominant.

The analysis was based on 368,857 responses to the coronavirus (Covid-19) infection survey, weighted to represent people aged two and over living in private households in the UK.

The estimates were based on self-reported long experience of Covid by survey participants rather than clinically diagnosed cases in the general population.

Self-reported long Covid was defined as symptoms that lasted more than four weeks after the first suspected infection and could not be explained by anything else.

Separately, the pressure on the NHS from the high volume of Covid infections has been underscored by official data showing that 94 per cent of hospital beds are now occupied and the highest number of staff has been sick from the virus in 10 weeks: an average of 28,500 staff every day.

https://www.ft.com/content/e62008ff-bebf-4f9f-bc3a-9bb54991fc30 Number of Brits with long Covid hits new high

Adam Bradshaw

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