IT is over a year since the first diagnosed cases of coronavirus and the world has changed significantly. The once abnormal has become the new norm, and words that might not have been uttered before, including social distancing and self-isolation, are on the tip of every tongue.

Another phrase gaining ground is Long Covid, an umbrella term to describe the effects of the virus on those who haven’t made a satisfactory recovery in the few weeks following infection. Data compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show one in five with a positive test still having symptoms of unwell after five weeks, with one in ten at twelve weeks or more.

Such presentations are not unique to Covid-19, and have been observed in other viral infections including glandular fever. It may take up to twelve months to completely recover from pneumonia.

Long Covid affects the heart and lungs causing chest pains, irregular heart rhythms, continued cough and shortness of breath. It has been linked to heart attack, stroke, chest infection and clots in the lung. It can lead to joint and muscle pains with reduced mobility. There may be bouts of abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Brain fog describes impaired cognition, such that the most basic tasks appear mammoth in nature. Increased levels of anxiety and depression are also reported in those suffering Long Covid.

The condition doesn’t seem to be related to the severity of the initial infection. Neither hospital admission nor an intensive care stay make the syndrome more likely.

But 80 per cent report struggling at work, over 70 per cent admit to a negative impact on family life and four in ten are less able to function in their roles as parents or carers, demonstrating that Long Covid not only has ramifications for the individual, but also families, the economy and society.

Estimates of numbers affected range from three hundred thousand to a million. To cope with this, 60 NHS Long Covid clinics have been assembled in England.

Scientists are analysing DNA obtained from the saliva of those with Long Covid to look for clues which may guide treatment and healthcare professionals are working hand in hand with Long Covid sufferers both as patients and advisors.

Although the lack of definite understanding and concrete answers is frustrating, acknowledgement of Long Covid will hopefully reduce any stigma towards those afflicted.