ALMOST 90% of those living with Long Covid in Ireland have not returned to their pre-Covid level of health, a new report has found.
Additionally, the median number of Long Covid symptoms reported was eight per person, while the median reported time since the initial Covid-19 infection was 12 months.
The study of 988 participants was conducted by APC Microbiome Ireland, a research centre based at University College Cork, in conjunction with Cork University Hospital and Long Covid Advocacy Ireland.
More than two thirds of participants in the study continued to experience fatigue, stomach upset, memory problems, chest pain and muscle pain.
Participants also reported that they were suffering from new symptoms that had not been present before catching Covid, including tinnitus (38%), mouth ulcers (28%), new allergies (16%) and sexual dysfunction (13%).
Nearly 40% of people said they were "severely limited" in their ability to work, while 60% of respondents had missed workdays at some stage due to their Long Covid symptoms.
In addition, 16% of participants said they were unable to work at the time of the survey and were receiving social welfare supports.
The survey was produced in a researcher-clinician-patient partnership involving APC Principal Investigator and UCC Professor of Immunology Liam O’Mahony, Consultant in Infectious Diseases at CUH Dr Corinna Sadlier, as well as Long Covid sufferer and representative of 'Long Covid Advocacy Ireland' Tanja Buwalda.
“That was really the shocking thing, that people were suffering from so many symptoms all at one time,” said Prof O’Mahony.
He is hopeful research, including on the role of the immune system and the gut, could benefit patients.
"The reasons why some people develop Long Covid, and others do not, are still unclear," Prof O'Mahony said.
"While many different biological mechanisms have been proposed, we are focusing on the role of the immune system and the microbiome in these complicated disease processes."
According to Dr Sadlier, the study "demonstrates the significant and wide-ranging impacts Long Covid is having not only on physical health, but also on ability to carry out usual daily activities, return to employment and overall quality of life."
Meanwhile, Ms Buwalda said the study "clearly shows that Long Covid demands urgent national attention from the Government and health system."
"Thousands of people are suffering needlessly because they do not have access to multidisciplinary clinics or effective treatments," she said.