Doctors should stop using the term long Covid as it is creating ‘unnecessary fear’ in patients and hindering recoveries, research suggests.

Experts said the long-term symptoms some patients experience following infection are no different to those caused by other viruses such as flu.

Giving it this label ‘wrongly implies there is something unique and exceptional about longer term symptoms’ following a bout of Covid, they say.

Often self-diagnosed, the term was coined for a number of symptoms following Covid infection, which can persist for months or even years after the initial infection.

Around 1.9 million people in the UK are reported to suffer with it, with the term covering everything from fatigue and breathlessness to muscle and joint pain.

Often self-diagnosed, the term ‘long Covid’ was coined for a number of symptoms following Covid infection, which can persist for months or even years after the initial infection. Around 1.9 million people in the UK are reported to suffer with it, with the term covering everything from fatigue and breathlessness to muscle and joint pain

But researchers from Queensland Health say that it has only come to people’s attention because of the sheer numbers infected with Covid, rather than the severity of long Covid symptoms or functional impairment.

Dr John Gerrard, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer said: ‘We believe it is time to stop using terms like ‘long Covid’.

‘They wrongly imply there is something unique and exceptional about longer term symptoms associated with this virus.

‘This terminology can cause unnecessary fear, and in some cases, hypervigilance to longer symptoms that can impede recovery.’

To understand more about the impact of long Covid on the Australian state of Queensland, researchers surveyed 5,112 adults who had either Covid or flu between 29 May and 25 June 2022.

A year later, participants were asked about ongoing symptoms and the degree of functional impairment using a questionnaire.

What is long Covid ?

Most people with Covid feel better within a few days or weeks, but those with long Covid take much longer to recover.

The symptoms include:

Fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of smell and muscle aches.

It can also cause:

Memory problems, a tight chest, insomnia, heart palpitations, dizziness, joint pain, pins and needles, tinnitus, stomach aches, loss of appetite, high temperature, a cough, rashes and depression. 

Source: NHS 

Overall, 16 per cent of all respondents reported ongoing symptoms a year later, and 3.6 per cent reported moderate-to-severe functional impairment in their activities of daily life.

The analysis found no evidence that those who had Covid were more likely to have moderate-to-severe functional limitations a year after their diagnosis than those with other viral infections, including flu.

Those who were more likely tended to be aged 50 years or older, and those who had symptoms of dizziness, muscle pain, shortness of breath, post-exertional malaise, and fatigue.

The findings will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases conference in Barcelona next month.

Dr Gerrard added: ‘In health systems with highly vaccinated populations, long Covid may have appeared to be a distinct and severe illness because of high volumes of Covid cases during the pandemic.

‘However, we found that the rates of ongoing symptoms and functional impairment are indistinguishable from other post-viral illnesses.

‘These findings underscore the importance of comparing post-Covid outcomes with those following other respiratory infections, and of further research into post-viral syndromes.’

A&E consultant Dr Rob Galloway has previously expressed his concern over diagnoses of the condition.

Writing for the Mail, he said he had been ‘frustrated by the number of patients labelled with it, often without any convincing reason beyond a collection of ongoing symptoms’.

He wrote: ‘The implications of this label can be significant, impacting on their mental wellbeing. Many of those I’ve been involved with treating seem defeated by the assumption that they are unlikely to get better.

‘But also because it means that clinicians may not look for other causes of their symptoms.’

Dr Janet Scott, Clinical Lecturer in Infectious Diseases, University of Glasgow who was not involved in the study, said yesterday: ‘Many infections cause post infection syndromes, and it may be that ‘long Covid’ is indeed not markedly different from other post -respiratory virus syndromes.

‘It is important however not to minimise the huge personal and economic impact the long Covid have on individuals.

‘The big difference with long Covid is the sheer number of people infected with the same virus in a short space of time – which has facilitated more coordinated research in the area – which I hope will benefit all sufferers of post Infection syndromes.’

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