Long Covid in the North East: how many people have it, how is it diagnosed and what are the symptoms?

Many have long forgotten Covid-19, but others are living with symptoms every day

An eye-watering number of people in the North East are suffering from Long Covid.

Over 15 months since the first UK lockdown due to Covid-19, many have either had the virus and moved on, or avoided it altogether.

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People in the North East have whirred back to life as it was before, but many are not so lucky.

NationalWorld has uncovered data looking at the number of people in our region suffering from Long Covid symptoms in 2022.

How many people have Long Covid in my area?

One in 30 people in the North East now suffer from Long Covid, shock figures show.

Across the UK, the number of people reporting that they have Long Covid has grown to two million.

In the North East, an estimated 93,000 people reported experiencing long-lasting effects of Covid-19 infection in the four weeks to May 1, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics.

Tens of thousands in our region are suffering from Long Covid

This represents 3.6% of the population. It’s a higher rate than the UK average of 3.1%.

Many of the people with Long Covid in the North East have been living with it for some time.

An estimated 43,000 people, 46% of those with Long Covid, were first infected with Covid-19 at least a year before.

What are the symptoms of Long Covid?

Typical symptoms of coronavirus include a cough, high temperature or loss of taste or smell, but these usually don’t last more than three weeks.

The long-term symptoms that some people experience often vary widely and encompass both physical and neurological effects, with these lasting into weeks and even months in some cases.

The most common symptom of Long Covid is severe fatigue, while other sufferers have reported breathlessness, a persistent cough, joint pain, muscle aches and mental health problems.

The vast array of symptoms include:

  • Muscle aches and weakness
  • Severe fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Memory loss or lack of concentration
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Struggling to think clearly
  • Digestive problems
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Hearing and eyesight problems
  • Persistent cough
  • Hair loss

Why is the virus causing long-term effects?

It is believed that while the virus may have been cleared from most of the body, it can continue to linger in some small pockets which can cause longer-lasting symptoms.

As the virus can directly infect a wide variety of cells in the body, it can trigger an overactive immune system which causes damage throughout the body.

It is thought that the immune system does not return to normal after infection and this can cause damage to how the body’s organs function, such as if the lungs become scarred. This has been seen after Sars or Mers infections, which are both types of coronavirus.

Are some people more at risk of Long Covid than others?

Developing long-term symptoms does not appear to be linked to how ill you are when you are first infected with Covid-19, but new research has identified four key factors that could increase your risk.

A recent study published in the medical journal Cell identified four common factors that can be seen in the early stages of coronavirus infections.

Who is at higher risk of getting Covid-19?

Researchers said these factors are often found in people who later develop long-lasting symptoms, even if the infection was mild.

The four factors thought to increase the likelihood of developing Long Covid are:

  • the viral load in a person’s blood
  • the presence of certain autoantibodies (antibodies that recognise parts of our own body) which are often used to combat the virus and its symptoms
  • the reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus, which has been known to infect people at a young age
  • if the patient has Type 2 diabetes

Is there a test for Long Covid?

Those suffering with long-lasting symptoms after Covid-19 infection should seek advice from a GP to discuss what impact it is having on your day-to-day life

Your doctor may suggest some tests to find out more about your symptoms and rule out other things that could be causing them.

These might include:

  • blood tests
  • checking your blood pressure and heart rate
  • a chest X-ray

You may then be given advice about how to manage and monitor your symptoms at home, or referred to a specialist rehabilitation service or a service that specialises in the specific symptoms you have.

More information on recovery from Covid-19 can be found on the NHS Your COVID Recovery website.