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What do we know about long COVID?

Most people who develop COVID-19 fully recover, but current data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests approximately 10%-20% of people experience a variety of mid- and long-term effects after they recover from their initial illness. 

These mid- and long-term effects are collectively known as Post COVID-19 Condition or “long COVID.”

For Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, “when you consider the millions, billions of people who have been exposed to this virus, it means that we have a significant number of people suffering with various forms of Post COVID-19 Condition.”

“It is really important that we show solidarity and stand with people and bear witness to what they’re suffering and then find the resources to support them”, he said during a press conference 

Common symptoms of long COVID

The most common symptoms of Post COVID-19 Condition are persistent coughing, loss of smell or taste, memory problems, shortness of breath and anxiety. 

According to Dr Ryan, some patients may experience “a post-COVID fog, a sense of having brain fog, a lack of energy and a lack of exercise tolerance.”

“Those who have been in the ICU, who have been on a ventilator, and have gone through physiological, psychological and physical stress of being in intensive care may suffer for a long time because it’s a huge insult to your body. It’s a huge insult to your mind.” he added.

Duration of the condition 

It is difficult to predict the duration for each patient of Post-COVID-19 Condition. Current research shows that patients may experience persistent symptoms for weeks to months following COVID-19.

While several tests exist for the initial COVID-19 infection, no such solution exists for the Post COVID-19 Condition, and it is still unclear what triggers it in patients. The best way to protect yourself from the Post COVID-19 Condition is to do everything you can to avoid getting infected with the COVID-19 virus. Following public health and social measures, as well as vaccination, can help limit the risk of infection and spread. 

“Everyone has suffered in this pandemic. It’s okay not to be okay. People have gone through a lot. They’ve experienced a lot. And it’s really important that we stay open and people are able to express their emotions and their feelings”, continued Dr Ryan.

We cannot move on now “because we’re going to leave a lot of people behind”, he concluded. 


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