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News / September 8, 2020

New guidance issued on long-term health impact of COVID-19

by Gaby Bissett

New guidance has been released to inform the public on the long-term health effects of coronavirus

Fresh guidance has been released to inform the public on the long-term health effects of coronavirus. 

The new advice reveals that 10% of mild cases of COVID-19 who were not hospitalised reported symptoms lasting more than four weeks.

Long-term heath issues include:

  • Respiratory symptoms and conditions such as chronic cough, shortness of breath and lung inflammation
  • Cardiovascular symptoms and disease such as chest tightness, acute myocarditis and heart failure
  • Prolonged loss or change of smell and taste
  • Mental health problems including depression, anxiety and cognitive difficulties
  • Inflammatory disorders such as myalgia, multi-system inflammatory syndrome and Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Persistent headaches
  • Fatigue, weakness and sleeplessness
  • Liver and kidney dysfunction.

Oral health care

Furthermore, a number of hospitalised cases reported virus symptoms lasting longer than eight weeks after they were discharged.

The guidance also refers to advice released last month regarding the necessary mouth and oral health care for those recovering from COVID-19. It says: ‘Hospitalisation and illness can impact a patient’s oral hygiene routine and oral health.

‘This may mean that preexisting oral conditions can deteriorate, or new oral conditions develop, while a patient is in hospital. Intubation will also affect mouth care and oral health, and may cause damage to teeth and/or soft tissues.’

Prolonged symptoms

This comes as discussions surrounding ‘long COVID’ come into focus, a term referring to those suffering from persistent symptoms.

Tim Spector, a professor of epidemiology at King’s College London, said more than 300,000 people report symptoms lasting for longer than one month.

And up to 60,000 people may have experienced symptoms for more than three months, the Guardian reports.

Author’s analysis

For many, this new government guidance may be seen as long overdue.

It’s been five and a half months since the UK implemented lockdown, which is, arguably, plenty of time to assess the long-term impact among those with mild cases.

But of course, we are constantly learning new information about how COVID-19 manifests and persists. Acknowledging the prolonged health impact is definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to support for those affected.

This might lead us to ask: Is it time we stop measuring the impact of the virus by the death rate only and also consider the long-term health effects?