Now scientists say long COLDS exist in proof that lingering Covid symptoms are ‘not a new phenomenon’
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British scientists say ‘long colds’ exist and may explain why people suffer from long Covid-esque problems without testing positive for the virus.
Experts from Queen Mary University of London said their findings suggest people could be suffering long-lasting complications from other respiratory infections like colds, influenza, or pneumonia, that are going unrecognised by medics.
Long Covid is a poorly understood condition that refers to symptoms caused by the virus that persist long after the initial illness has cleared, generally about 12 weeks.
In the latest study, scientists analysed data from 10,171 British adults enrolled in a Covid study.
They found 1,343 had suffered a Covid infection and 472 a respiratory infection that tested negative for Covid.
British scientists say ‘long colds’ exist and may explain why people suffer from long Covid-esque problems without testing positive for the virus
This showed that 22 per cent of people with Covid suffered prolonged symptoms after infection, as did 22 per cent of those from a non-Covid infection.
Experts said this suggested long colds are just as common as long Covid.
Some of the most common symptoms of these long colds included coughing, stomach pain, and diarrhoea more than four weeks after the initial infection.
In comparison, long Covid sufferers were more likely to report light-headedness or dizziness and problems with their sense of taste and smell.
The longest time from initial infection to reports of ongoing symptoms was 37 weeks for non-Covid infections and 64 weeks for Covid.
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The scientists said they are still trying to unpick exactly what causes some people to develop long extended symptoms from respiratory infections and why others are spared.
However, they believe the severity of the initial illness could increase the risk.
The researchers added they don’t currently have evidence suggesting symptoms of long colds have the same severity or duration as long Covid.
Statistician and lead author of the study, Giulia Vivaldi, said: ‘Our findings shine a light not only on the impact of long Covid on people’s lives, but also other respiratory infections.
‘As research into long Covid continues, we need to take the opportunity to investigate and consider the lasting effects of other acute respiratory infections.
‘These “long” infections are so difficult to diagnose and treat primarily because of a lack of diagnostic tests and there being so many possible symptoms.’
Professor Adrian Martineau, an expert on respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary added that the results may offer some answers to people suffering Long Covid-esque symptoms but who never tested positive for the virus.
‘Our findings may chime with the experience of people who have struggled with prolonged symptoms after having a respiratory infection despite testing negative for Covid on a nose or throat swab,’ he said.
‘Ongoing research into the long-term effects of Covid and other acute respiratory infections is important because it can help us to get to the root of why some people experience more prolonged symptoms than others.
‘Ultimately this could help us to identify the most appropriate form of treatment and care for affected people.’
Independent experts also welcomed the study’s findings.
Professor Peter Openshaw, an expert in experimental Medicine, Imperial College London, said: ‘The study is important in showing that recovery from acute respiratory illness may be slow regardless of cause, that people should expect a slow return to normality and not expect to immediately return to full activities immediately after an acute respiratory illness from whatever cause.
Around 1.2million Brits were infected with Covid in the week to September 10, according to data from the ZOE Covid study
However, he took issue with the announcement of the results, saying the term ‘long cold’ should not be used to underplay how serious long Covid could be.
‘The term “long cold” used in the press release should not belittle the very significant disability that some with long Covid suffer,’ he added.
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Another independent expert Dr David Strain, a senior lecturer and honorary Consultant at the University of Exeter also welcomed the study.
‘They demonstrated, at least in the short term, persistence of symptoms can be troubling not just after Covid but after many other infections,’ he said.
He added that long-running complications from had also been recorded from other historical pandemics.
‘Whilst in the first to explore this prospectively, this is not a new phenomenon,’ he said.’
‘Indeed, the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918-20 left many individuals with Encephalitis Lethargica that took decades to resolve.’
Professor Paul Harrison, an expert in psychiatry at the University of Oxford, said: ‘The study supports previous findings that long-term symptoms are common after respiratory infections in general, not just following Covid.’
Disputed estimates suggest almost 2million people in the UK are living with long Covid in the UK.
This includes about 762,000 Brits who have had long Covid symptoms for more than two years, according to Government figures.
Commonly reported symptoms include suffering breathlessness, fatigue, muscle aches and brain fog.
There is no known cure for long Covid with the NHS instead focusing on helping sufferers alleviate the dozen or so symptoms attributed to the condition.
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