Sunday 04 December 2022

Research into Long Covid causes urgently needed, experts say


More research is urgently needed into the diagnosis and treatment of Long Covid which is affecting the lives of ‘tens of thousands’ of people, experts have said.

Persistent fatigue, muscle pain and memory loss are the main symptoms but there is a wide list of around 200 Long Covid-related health problems which manifest themselves differently in each patient, making diagnosis difficult.

One in eight people are thought to suffer from the debilitating effects of Long Covid a year or longer after they have contracted the virus. Of those who have been diagnosed, benefits agency UWV said 84% of sufferers had been declared unfit for work in the first nine months of 2022. In 9% of cases the situation is permanent.

‘This is a terrible thing to happen to people,’ Joost Klappe of patient organisation long covid told Nieuwsuur. ‘They lose everything, their jobs, their social contacts. If you want to give these people hope then start researching Long Covid properly now so they can be given the right treatment.’

The search for the origin of the complaints should be the main focus of the research, lung specialist and researcher Merel Hellemons said. ‘For a number of patients the current therapies, such as physio and occupational therapy are not enough. They are desperate and show no improvement and it is high time we found out why that is.’

In a reaction, health minister Ernst Kuipers said ‘it takes time to accumulate data to diagnose and treat a new illness’.  He said a more efficient way of tackling the problem would be to pool research with other countries.  

Some patients have been travelling to Germany to undergo costly blood filtering treatment, which is not available in the Netherlands. ‘I get why people feel they are not understood and turn to alternative treatments. But there is a potential risk and we don’t know if it helps,’ Hellemons said.

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