What is Long Covid?
The devasting effects and future implications of COVID-19 has become increasingly more evident during a further period of national lockdown.
With the recent announcement from Public Health England that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has now exceeded one million and as the rate of transmission continues to rise, it is inevitable that we will encounter victims of COVID-19 in greater frequency within our daily practice.
Initially COVID-19 was considered a virus capable of acute short-term symptoms lasting up to two weeks.
However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that symptoms of COVID-19 can last substantially longer and can have a profound effect on the sufferer.
'Long Covid' is one of the terms being used to describe the condition where people have recovered from the acute phase but continue to suffer from long-term symptoms.
In most cases, the symptoms experienced by those with Long Covid are distinct to those typically associated with COVID-19 during the acute phase of the virus. They include a huge spectrum of non-specific problems with varying degrees of severity.
Studies suggest chronic fatigue is the most prevalent complication, followed by respiratory issues and joint pain. More recently there has also been a number of reports of neurological and cognitive issues developing.
Studies regarding the prevalence of Long Covid are in their infancy but they appear to already demonstrate small but significant numbers. A recent study in Italy found that only 18 of 143 patients infected with COVID-19 were completely free of symptoms 60 days after the initial onset of symptoms.
Another study by King's College found that one in 45 people displayed symptoms for 12 weeks or more. The potential impact of Long Covid has been recognised by the NHS which recently announced substantial investment into facilitating treatment for people with the condition.
What issues could Long Covid present for personal injury claims?
Long Covid could present several challenges for those dealing with personal injury claims. It is increasingly likely that Long Covid may be regarded as a pre-existing condition. As symptoms of Long Covid may overlap with symptoms of injury, difficulties may arise identifying the exact cause of symptoms and establishing a prognosis.
Practitioners may also encounter claims where clients are diagnosed with Long Covid following a personal injury. In such situations Long Covid may be considered as an exacerbating factor.
It will be important to identify appropriate medical experts with a specialism or sub specialism in Long Covid to assist in these issues
The possibility of Long Covid should be considered for all clients regardless of whether they have previously tested positive for COVID-19 as there are likely to be many unidentified cases of COVID-19 due to insufficient testing during the course of the pandemic.
Long Covid is an increasingly recognised complication of COVID-19. It has the potential to impact on personal injury claims with regards to causation. It is therefore important for the legal profession to monitor and respond to developments in this area.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.