Long COVID risk lower from omicron variant than from delta

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In a study from King’s College London, scientists found the omicron variant is less likely to cause long COVID than the delta variant

Long COVID is defined by NICE guidelines as producing new or ongoing symptoms four weeks or more after the start of the disease.

Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of concentration and joint pain. The symptoms can adversely affect day-to-day activities, and in some cases can be severely limiting.

In the study, researchers analyzed data from the ZOE COVID Symptom study app.

They found the odds of experiencing long COVID were between 20-50% less during the omicron period versus the delta period, depending on age and time since vaccination.

The study identified 56,003 UK adult cases first testing positive between December 20, 2021 and March 9, 2022 when omicron was the dominant strain.

The team compared these cases to 41,361 cases first testing positive between June 1, 2021, and November 27, 2021, when the delta variant was dominant.

The analysis shows that 4.4% of omicron cases were long COVID, compared to 10.8% of delta cases. However, the absolute number of people experiencing long COVID was in fact higher in the omicron period.

This was because of the vast numbers of people infected with omicron from December 2021 to February 2022.

The UK Office of National Statistics estimated the number of people with long COVID actually increased from 1.3 million in January 2022 to 2 million as of May 1, 2022.

The team says the omicron variant appears substantially less likely to cause long COVID than previous variants, but still, 1 in 23 people who catch COVID-19 go on to have symptoms for more than four weeks.

Given the number of people affected it’s important that we continue to support them at work, at home, and within the NHS.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about a new risk factor for severe COVID-19, and these common anti-inflammatory drugs could help cut COVID-19 deaths.

For more information about COVID, please see recent studies that vitamin D can be cheap treatments for COVID-19, and results showing this heart problem linked to 5 times higher death risk in COVID-19.

The study was conducted by Dr. Claire Steves et al and published in The Lancet.

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