Long Covid – How common is it?

The topic of long covid, is a fascinating gray area in our social consciousness. It seems to me, that the majority of the people (at least the one I spoke with), know at least one person that had a long covid. Regardless, the perception on the matter is mainly based on a personal bias and not on actual numbers or facts. In this post, I will present you the available information I manage to find and its possible conclusions.

Before entering into the data, it is important for me to mention that the majority of the data is based on self declaration of people. Due to the social welfare benefit given to those categorized as “Long Covid”, the self declaration should be taken with a grain of salt. Additionally, the data normally comes from survey stating more than 200 potential symptoms. Making it more likely to find positive answers than not.

Long Covid is define as “Symptoms persisting more than four weeks after the first suspected Covid episode, that are not explained by something else”. As explained in many official websites (WHO) – some of the most common symptoms of post COVID-19 condition or as you said, long COVID, include shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction, which people call brain fog, as well as fatigue. Those are the three most common. However, there has been more than 200 symptoms that actually have been reported in patients. Other symptoms that patients or people may experience include things such as chest pain, such as trouble speaking, some have described anxiety or depression, muscle aches, fever, loss of smell, loss of taste. So the list is quite long, but those top three are the ones that have been mainly described.

The current methodology in the subject divides the symptoms to 3 categories – Symptoms that do not reduce one capability to do day to day tasks, those that reduce it a little and those that reduce it a lot. When looking on statistics regarding Long Covid, it is important to realize that a big majority of the participants that answer positively, declares that the symptoms do not affect their daily life meaningfully.

For example, Recent data from the UK shows that out of 1 million people self declaring having “Long Covid”, only 178,000 can be categories as symptoms that actually prevent the individuals from performing day to day tasks. It seems The most common symptoms experienced at five weeks are fatigue , cough, headache, and muscle pain. (Loss of taste and smell followed, each affecting about 6.3% of participants.). All those long terms symptoms are not unique to Covid. They all fall under the definition of “long-haulers”. A phenomena that exists in many previous flu’s and sicknesses

Studies in the field varies drastically, stating that the chances of getting a Long Covid is between 2.3% to 40%. The majority of the researches I managed to find, indicates a chance of around 10% of the reported cases. From various data points I managed to find, It seems that the ratio between the general population of self declared long Covid and the one categorized as hard cases of long Covid is around 1 to 5. Surprisingly, some recent researches shows, that Vaccinated people have the same risk of developing Long Covid as the unvaccinated.

Taking this numbers in consideration, we can assume (too much data is missing in the subject to be certain), that around 2-4% of the people that get Covid are at risk of getting complicated long covid. It appears that in many cases, some previous weaknesses could be a precondition to the severity and longevity of the symptoms. I didn’t manage to find any country that reported at any point in time, a total of more than 2% of it total population under the long Covid category (including cases that do not in a way prevent any daily routine). Meaning a potential of 0.6% of the population pass trough a complicated long Covid.

The case for the long Covid is complicated. There is no doubts that it exists, but the question is on what scale and how significant it is. When approaching the subject, it is also important to take in account psychological aspects, the potential welfare benefits and previous personal weaknesses of the patients.

While some extreme cases of long covid exist, base on the current data available, it is questionable if the existence of “Long Covid” represent a new, unique and extreme phenomena related to this specific disease. At the moment, it would be safe to say that recovery from Covid could take several weeks in some cases. That the big majority don’t show signs of long covid. From those who do, the majority don’t show any symptoms that prevent them from living their lives. From those with more severe symptoms, the majority of the cases don’t show any symptoms after 12 weeks and can come back to work and function reasonably after already 2-3 weeks.

Share with me your opinion in the subject in the comment. Open conversation and awareness are the key for the creation of a better future.

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