Long COVID may affect an entire generation, according to an immunology expert in London.
Professor Danny Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College London, is being loudly critical of the UK’s approach to COVID, saying that it is failing to take the impact of infections seriously enough.
“It’s kind of an anathema to me that we’ve kind of thrown in the towel on control of Omicron wave infections and have said ‘it’s endemic, and we don’t care anymore, because it’s very benign’,” he said. “It just isn’t. And there are new people joining the long COVID support groups all the time with their disabilities. It’s really not OK, and it’s heart-breaking.”
The Office for National Statistics in the UK has been tracking self-reported data on long COVID for 15 months. As of the end of January this year, approximately 1.5 million people in the UK have reported ongoing symptoms over four weeks after their first suspected infection, with nearly half of those reporting that their infection was a year or more ago.
The findings are supported by an unrelated study which found that only one out of every three patients hospitalized for COVID symptoms felt fully recovered a year later.
More serious research into long COVID, the sort with blind studies and clinical examinations, is slow in being organized. Over 200 symptoms have been reported in association with it, from brain fog to heart irregularities, with causes ranging from idiopathic to lung and artery damage and micro clots. Many symptoms, like cognitive decline or breathing disorders, can be quite debilitating.
“We were people who had decades’ worth of viral immunology, and autoimmunity. So, you know, what else have we been training for?” Altmann said about his own decision to begin long COVID research. He calls for more cooperation between researchers on the matter, not just in the UK but worldwide.