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Omicron BA.5 has a mutational advantage over previous spin-offs of Omicron. As Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recently put it, Omicron BA.5 “substantially evades neutralising antibodies induced in people by vaccination and infection”. This is reflected in the numbers: more than three million Britons are thought to have symptomatic Covid right now.
The wider pool of infection means cases of long Covid are increasing, despite evidence suggesting the latest strain is less likely to cause long Covid.
Long Covid describes the symptoms that linger long after the initial infection has disappeared.
“Symptoms of long covid can persist for over a year and potentially be permanent,” warns the BMJ.
According to the health body, one common red flag of long Covid, which is inevitably becoming more prevalent as Omicron drives up cases, is fatigue.
Fatigue is a persistent feeling of tiredness. Unlike general tiredness, “it’s more profound and isn’t relieved by rest”, notes the Mayo Clinic.
Another way of putting it, if you wake up in the morning exhausted, despite having a good night’s sleep, you may have Covid-induced fatigue.
Other signs of long Covid include cognitive symptoms such as difficulty concentrating and impaired memory, and sensory changes like permanent loss of smell or taste.
The good news is, The risk of developing long covid is lower among people with the Omicron variant with Delta.
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That’s the takeaway from an analysis of self reported data to the UK ZOE covid app.
But because far more people have been infected during the omicron wave than during the delta wave, the total number with long covid will be higher.
In June the Office for National Statistics estimated that the number of people experiencing long covid increased from 1.3 million in January 2022 to two million on 1 May 2022.
Lead researcher Claire Steves said: “The Omicron variant appears substantially less likely to cause long Covid than previous variants—but still, one out of every 23 people who catches COVID-19 goes on to have symptoms for more than four weeks.
“Given the numbers of people affected, it’s important that we continue to support them at work, at home, and within the NHS.”
Slightly more women than men log onto the ZOE app, and fewer people from the most deprived areas, so the samples are not fully generalisable to the UK population. But the researchers said the samples were similar in both study periods, allowing comparison.
The researchers said the strength of the study was the prospective logging of a wide range of symptoms. Limitations included no direct resting of infectious variants and no objective measures of illness duration.
There were also insufficient data to estimate the odds of long Covid in unvaccinated people, and the study did not estimate effects in children.
See the latest Covid vaccine stats below and visit InYourArea for all the Covid vaccine latest
Research into treatments for long Covid are ongoing but there are things you can do in meantime.
“Contact a GP if you’re worried about symptoms four weeks or more after you had COVID-19 or thought you may have had COVID-19,” advises the NHS.
According to the health body, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and the impact they’re having on your life.
“They may suggest some tests to find out more about your symptoms and rule out other things that could be causing them.”
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