Long COVID 'so complex' some people might have symptoms for life - immunologist

Leah Panapa 08/11/2021

LISTEN: 1 in 3 people will potentially experience COVID-19 symptoms months, if not years, after infection.

It's a statistic that has health experts concerned and warning that we still don't know what the long-term impacts of COVID-19 look like yet.

University of Auckland cellular immunologist Dr Anna Brooks says because long COVID is "so complex" we don't know how long some people might suffer from it. 

"We just don't yet know enough about what really is causing this," she told Magic Talk.

"Many people are experiencing ongoing symptoms after being infected. So they've cleared their infection and then they struggle to return to normal health.

"Potentially some people that recover after three to six months and some might go on for life," she said.

A study by the University of Oxford and UK National Institute for Health Research of more than 270,000 people found 37 percent had at least one long Covid symptom, three to six months after infection.

Breathing problems, abdominal symptoms, fatigue, pain and anxiety or depression were the most commonly reported symptoms from the study.

Long COVID doesn't discriminate. Dr Brooks says it could have long-lasting effects on anyone, including young and healthy people.

"The truth of the matter is long COVID affects all age groups,

"We have no idea who's going to be the unlucky 1 in 3 that will have persisting symptoms," Dr Brooks told Magic Talk.

She says in all age groups, including children, people have suffered debilitating symptoms.

"We're just really trying to push that message especially to the younger demographic that just think this is all about dying. It's so misleading to think of this virus like that," she said.

Researchers at the Universities of Auckland and Otago are currently looking for volunteers to participate in a long COVID study

These studies will investigate immune dysregulation and long-term immunity in those with Long COVID, while also investigating the relationship of Long COVID to other post-viral conditions.

"We've already got well over 140 people signed up and many of those were infected in early-2020," Dr Brooks said.

Listen to the full interview with Dr Anna Brooks above.

Magic Talk | Mornings with Leah Panapa, weekdays from 9am

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