Long Covid: How many people in the West Midlands have it, how is it diagnosed and what are the symptoms?
One in 30 people in the West Midlandsnow suffer from Long Covid, shock figures show.
Claire Hastie fell sick with Covid-19 in March 2020 and has not had a symptom free day since.
The 50-year-old from King’s Heath said that the virus completely changed her family’s life.
Claire said: “Me and my sons caught Covid-19 before the first lockdown and I have been sick ever since, it has completely changed our lives.
“I was bed ridden for around three months, had to use a wheelchair for a year and could no longer do my old job as it was too cognitively intense.
“My 11 year old twin sons also have Long Covid which has led to severe seizures which are being investigated and they are now home schooled.
“My eldest son is 15 and thankfully escaped Covid-19 with mild symptoms but he now has to help around the house cooking and cleaning as I’m a single mother.”
Claire started a Facebook group named Long Covid Support back in May 2020 - it now has over 53,000 members.
She is passionate about raising awareness of Long Covid and creating a safe online space for those who suffer from the debilitating condition.
“Peer support is really important for Long Covid,” Claire said.
“Which is why we run several weekly zoom meetings on the Facebook group as well as activities such as chair yoga and a Long Covid choir.”
New figures show that one in 30 people in the West Midland now suffer from Long Covid - a number that Claire is not shocked by.
“There are no restrictions and people are not wearing masks,” Claire said.
“People don’t seem to understand that Long Covid can happen even if you have already had Covid-19 and it was mild.
“I would urge people to socialise outside and work from home if possible.
“Just because the Government isn’t talking about Covid anymore it doesn’t mean that it’s not happening.
“It’s not about stopping your social life but just being mindful about what’s out there.”
Long Covid Support is an open Facebook group and it can be found here.
How many people have Long Covid in my area?
One in 30 people in the West Midlands now suffer from Long Covid, shock figures show.
Across the UK, the number of people reporting that they have Long Covid has grown to two million.
In the West Midlands, an estimated 178,000 people reported experiencing long-lasting effects of Covid-19 infection in the four weeks to May 1, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics.
This represents 3.1% of the population. Which is the same rate as the UK average of 3.1%.
Many of the people with Long Covid in the West Midlandshave been living with it for some time.
An estimated 72,000 people, 40% of those with Long Covid, were first infected with Covid-19 at least a year before.
What are the symptoms of Long Covid?
Typical symptoms of coronavirus include a cough, high temperature or loss of taste or smell, but these usually don’t last more than three weeks.
The long-term symptoms that some people experience often vary widely and encompass both physical and neurological effects, with these lasting into weeks and even months in some cases.
The most common symptom of Long Covid is severe fatigue, while other sufferers have reported breathlessness, a persistent cough, joint pain, muscle aches and mental health problems.
The vast array of symptoms include:
- Muscle aches and weakness
- Severe fatigue
- Chest pain
- Joint pain
- Skin rashes
- Memory loss or lack of concentration
- Struggling to think clearly
- Digestive problems
- Loss of taste and smell
- Hearing and eyesight problems
- Persistent cough
- Hair loss
Why is the virus causing long-term effects?
It is believed that while the virus may have been cleared from most of the body, it can continue to linger in some small pockets which can cause longer-lasting symptoms.
As the virus can directly infect a wide variety of cells in the body, it can trigger an overactive immune system which causes damage throughout the body.
It is thought that the immune system does not return to normal after infection and this can cause damage to how the body’s organs function, such as if the lungs become scarred. This has been seen after Sars or Mers infections, which are both types of coronavirus.
Are some people more at risk of Long Covid than others?
Developing long-term symptoms does not appear to be linked to how ill you are when you are first infected with Covid-19, but new research has identified four key factors that could increase your risk.
A recent study published in the medical journal Cell identified four common factors that can be seen in the early stages of coronavirus infections.
Researchers said these factors are often found in people who later develop long-lasting symptoms, even if the infection was mild.
The four factors thought to increase the likelihood of developing Long Covid are:
- the viral load in a person’s blood
- the presence of certain autoantibodies (antibodies that recognise parts of our own body) which are often used to combat the virus and its symptoms
- the reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus, which has been known to infect people at a young age
- if the patient has Type 2 diabetes
Is there a test for Long Covid?
Those suffering with long-lasting symptoms after Covid-19 infection should seek advice from a GP to discuss what impact it is having on your day-to-day life
Your doctor may suggest some tests to find out more about your symptoms and rule out other things that could be causing them.
These might include:
- blood tests
- checking your blood pressure and heart rate
- a chest X-ray
You may then be given advice about how to manage and monitor your symptoms at home, or referred to a specialist rehabilitation service or a service that specialises in the specific symptoms you have.
More information on recovery from Covid-19 can be found on the NHS Your COVID Recovery website.
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