Monday, 26 Oct 2020

ICU doctor warns of 'long-term Covid' after suffering symptoms for three months

An intensive care doctor has warned people about the effects of ‘long-term Covid’ as England prepares to move out of lockdown.

Dr Jake Suett, 31, was on the frontline for barely a week before he began developing symptoms on March 20. He is yet to return to work 12 weeks on and says he still experiences breathlessness, blurred vision and a high temperature.

Despite Public Health England figures showing that 19 out of 20 coronavirus patients recover without the need for further hospital treatment, the medic is part of a Facebook group of more than 5,000 people from across the country who say they are still blighted by lingering symptoms.

He has called on scientists to look into why thousands of patients seem to be so badly affected and to investigate whether there may be a separate ‘post-Covid syndrome’.

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Dr Suett told Sky News he ‘spent three days just gasping for breath in bed’ at the height of his illness, adding that ‘things have improved since then, but not much and only very, very slowly’.

He said that because of the dearth of available testing at the peak of the pandemic, many who appear to have caught the virus early on have no proof they did so yet are ‘left to suffer frightening symptoms for months’.

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The ICU doctor added: ‘I got tested after four weeks because I work for the NHS. It came back negative, but I’ve still never been so short of breath in my life. I kept thinking, this is not normal, this is not okay, someone needs to be following this.’

Earlier this week, physiotherapists warned that thousands of coronavirus patients may need ongoing rehabilitation for lingering symptoms including breathlessness and fatigue.

Professor David Heymann, an infectious disease specialist, also told a Chatham House briefing: ‘We don’t know yet, because we’re still early in this infection, what may happen in those survivors from this infection.

‘But it appears that some have had continued reactions in the lungs, that are continuing to keep them short of breath, and hopefully these will resolve but we just don’t know yet whether they will.’

Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, echoed Dr Suett’s calls for a scientific study into the potential long-term effects of the virus.

He told Sky that ‘there are people out there who are worried and want to know more about this’, adding that ‘Covid follow-up clinics’ will ‘have a huge impact on NHS manpower and on patients’ lives’ for years to come.

An NHS spokesperson said a dedicated rehabilitation service has been set up for coronavirus patients.

A spokesman for the Department for Health and Social Care added that anyone who requires a test can now get one, while antibody testing is available for NHS staff who think they may have already had the virus in its early stages.

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