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Long Covid less prevalent than thought

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Many report ongoing fatigue after COVID Many report ongoing fatigue after COVID

One in 40 people with coronavirus has symptoms lasting at least three months, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures suggest.

In April, the ONS put the proportion at about one in every 10. About 3% of people in the study who had tested positive had at least one of the symptoms for at least three months after infection. Among those who had not tested positive, that proportion was 0.5%, meaning one in every 40 infected people had their coronavirus symptoms last for three months or longer.

However, the condition is not fully understood and still has no universally agreed definition, leading to different studies producing different figures.

Read more: All nursing staff should have any vaccine deemed necessary

‘When you’re balancing the risk-benefit of vaccines, you always want to make sure the harms of the disease are more than the potential harms of the vaccine. Because the risk of the disease in children is so low, long Covid becomes an important factor,’ said study co-author Prof Nigel Curtis, a paediatric infectious diseases specialist at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

‘We don’t in fact have an accurate determination of the risk of long Covid, but it’s likely to be considerably less than many … headlines have been suggesting.’

Due to different organisations including different symptoms as part of their definitions of Long Covid, the figures are not an exact representation of the situation.

“The ONS article also summarises the results from other work that seems to be estimating the prevalence and comes up with different results, including previous work by ONS itself, and gives possible explanations as to why the results differ so much. I think those summaries and explanations are important and interesting,’ said Prof Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics, The Open University.

Read more: Four in five people aged 16 and over vaccinated with both doses

‘It doesn’t concern me that, at this stage in the pandemic, numerical estimates about something as new and complicated as long Covid differ quite a lot – what’s important is that those involved should discuss openly what needs to be done to clarify the position.’

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