The World Health Organization said Thursday that one in 10 COVID-19 patients experience persistent ill health 12 weeks after having had the virus and urged health authorities to take their situation seriously.
At a virtual news conference Thursday, WHO’s Europe division released a policy brief that documents how different countries in the region have responded to patients who suffer long-term COVID-19 symptoms.
WHO European director Hans Kluge said so-called “long COVID” can bring symptoms that include severe fatigue, chest pain, heart inflammation, headache, forgetfulness, depression, loss of smell, recurrent fever, diarrhea and ringing in the ears.
The policy brief says available data shows about one in four people with COVID-19 show symptoms about a month after testing positive, while one in 10 experience symptoms after 12 weeks.
Kluge said, “The sufferers of post-COVID conditions need to be heard if we are to understand the long-term consequences and recovery from COVID-19.” He said it is important for policymakers to consider such long-term patients as part of the response to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
Kluge added long-term sufferers are a priority for the WHO and should be for every health authority.
Kluge also said there were fewer than one million new COVID-19 cases in Europe for the second consecutive week as transmission continues to slow. He said new cases have declined by almost half since the beginning of the year, which he credited to countries that have implemented new measures to slow transmission.
But Kluge warned that COVID-19 continues to spread at very high rates across Europe, with two variants of concern continuing to displace other variants.