- author, Michelle Roberts
- scroll, BBC Health Publisher Online
A British study has found that “long flu” may be similar to “long Covid,” with some people experiencing symptoms long after the initial infection.
Common symptoms of the long flu include cough, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
These results come from 10,171 adults who completed questionnaires on the topic.
Experts say there is still more work to be done to understand who is at risk, how serious it is, and what can be done about it.
The idea that a respiratory virus — or even other viral infections — can cause long-term illness is not new, but the recent Covid pandemic has brought new attention to the phenomenon.
The researchers behind the new work say the findings provide validation for patients facing problems like these. “People can feel very depressed after contracting the virus,” researcher Adrian Martino, from Queen Mary University of London, told the BBC.
The study was published in the journal The Lancet e-Clinical MedicinePeople were asked to report any respiratory illnesses and other symptoms they had in the first two months of 2021 – when the Covid pandemic entered its second year and vaccines began being administered.
No participant in this study has yet received any vaccine dose against Covid-19.
- 1,343 said they had recently been infected with COVID-19
- 472 said they had another respiratory virus, such as influenza or a common cold
Not everyone who recovers from an illness will experience new or persistent symptoms.
But compared to those who said they had no recent respiratory illnesses, those who said they had had Covid, the flu or a common cold in the previous weeks were more likely to have certain symptoms over the next month or more.
- Stomach problems
- Muscle or joint pain
- Sleep problems
- Memory problems/difficulty concentrating
- Dizziness/feeling lightheaded
People who had recently had Covid were more likely to report problems with smell and taste, mental confusion, dizziness and sweating than people who had lingering symptoms after a cold or flu.
Post-viral fatigue or other symptoms can affect people of any age. The severity of the initial illness does not always predict this risk – some people may be unwell at first but recover relatively quickly, while others who have only mild illness at first may continue to have debilitating symptoms long afterward.
Researcher Giulia Vivaldi said: “Our findings highlight not only the long-term impact of Covid on people’s lives, but also on other respiratory infections. The lack of knowledge, or even the lack of a common term, prevents these conditions from being reported and diagnosed.” . , from Queen Mary University of London.
“As research into long Covid continues, we need to seize the opportunity to investigate and consider the long-term effects of other acute respiratory infections.”
“This ‘long Covid’ infection is very difficult to diagnose and treat, mainly because there are no diagnostic tests and the presence of many possible symptoms. More than 200 cases have been investigated due to long Covid alone.”
According to data collected by the Office for National Statistics, around 1.9 million people in the UK – about 3% of the population – suffered from long Covid this spring. It is difficult to know for sure how many people are affected.
Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said the study is important in showing that recovery from acute respiratory infections can be slow, regardless of the cause. “People should expect a slow return to normal life and not expect an immediate return to full activity.”
He cautioned that the term “long flu” should not diminish the very significant disability that some people experience as a result of long Covid specifically.
Paul Harrison, professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, said: “The study supports previous findings that long-term symptoms are common after respiratory infections in general, not just after Covid.”
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