The first Irish study of long Covid symptoms has found almost half of people affected have memory problems and 17 per cent have thought about harming themselves.
As the Irish Examiner reports, the study found that people with long Covid had as many as 33 symptoms, with the median being eight. Some were sick for up to 20 months and the median was one year.
Symptoms also include sexual dysfunction (13 per cent) and tinnitus (38 per cent), with more than two in three reporting fatigue, stomach upset, heart palpitations, and muscle pain, among other symptoms.
Just 9 per cent of long Covid sufferers were hospitalised when they first had the virus.
The study, ‘Impact of long Covid on health and quality of life’, for which 988 people were surveyed, was conducted by Cork University Hospital (CUH), APC Microbiome Ireland at University College Cork, and Long Covid Advocacy Ireland.
Consultant in infectious diseases at Cork University Hospital Corinna Sadlier. Dr Sadlier said: ‘There is a clear and compelling need for dedicated cross-disciplinary specialist services.’
APC principal investigator and UCC professor of immunology Liam O’Mahony said the virus can have significant long-term effects on multiple organ systems.
“That was really the shocking thing, that people were suffering from so many symptoms all at one time,” said Prof O’Mahony.
He is hopeful research, including on the role of the immune system and the gut, could benefit patients.
CUH infectious diseases consultant Corinna Sadlier said the survey identified emerging clusters of multisystem symptoms.
“The study demonstrates the significant and wide-ranging impacts long Covid is having not only on physical health, but also on ability to carry out usual daily activities, return to employment, and overall quality of life,” said Dr Sadlier.
‘That was really the shocking thing, that people were suffering from so many symptoms all at one time,’ said Liam O’Mahony principal investigator at APC Microbiome Ireland, one of the instigators of Ireland’s first study into long Covid. Picture: Gerard McCarthy
Long Covid Advocacy Ireland representative Tanja Buwalda has struggled with long Covid since March 2020.
“Thousands of people are suffering needlessly because they do not have access to multidisciplinary clinics or effective treatments,” said Ms Buwalda.
A representative of Long Covid Advocacy Ireland, she warned: “Thousands of people are suffering needlessly because they do not have access to multidisciplinary clinics or effective treatments.
Meanwhile, Independent TD Denis Naughten has called on the Government to treat the surge in long Covid patients with the same urgency as the initial Covid-19 infections and ensure that an estimated 21,459 adults who are unfit to work are given access to the medical care they need.
“These patients who are trying to access medical care, are likely to be suffering from long Covid to such an extent that they are unable to work. This is despite promises since September last year that a treatment pathway would be put in place by the HSE,” he said.
Symptoms of long Covid include fatigue and brain fog, which are experienced at least three months after the initial infection for significant periods of time, in some cases over two years.
Professor Jack Lambert of the Mater Hospital told the Oireachtas Health Committee earlier this year that patients with the condition “act very much like patients who have experienced closed head injuries”.