Omicron reduces the risk of ‘Long Covid,’ according to a study
According to a UK study published in The Lancet, last winter’s Omicron variant was less likely to develop “long COVID” symptoms.
The researchers at King’s College London examined data from nearly 100,000 participants who used an app to record their COVID symptoms.
Long-term COVID symptoms were reported by just over 4% of those infected during the Omicron wave, compared to 10% of those infected during the Delta wave.
However, because the Omicron wave infected significantly more people, the total was greater.
In fact, according to Kevin McConway, retired professor of applied statistics at The Open University, the Omicron wave’s a substantially higher number of new infections “completely overwhelmed” the variant’s putative decreased risk of long-term COVID.
“Anyway, you don’t have much of a say in which viral variant you get infected with,” he explained.
“What’s more, nothing in these studies indicates what would happen if a different new variation is discovered in terms of long-term COVID risk.”
Other factors, such as how long ago someone was vaccinated against Covid, were considered by the researchers, but it is hard to know whether the difference in variations caused the difference in long Covid numbers.
“The Omicron variant appears to be significantly less likely than previous variants to cause prolonged COVID,” said lead researcher Dr Claire Steves, “yet one in every 23 people who contract COVID-19 has symptoms for more than four weeks.”
Before the Omicron wave, the population was estimated to be around 1.3 million people.
What is the long COVID?
While the majority of people who contract COVID do not become seriously ill and recover quickly, some people experience long-term issues after recovering from the infection – even if they were not ill in the first place.
Long-term COVID isn’t well understood, and there’s no generally agreed-upon definition, so estimates of its prevalence and key symptoms differ.
Symptoms that persist for more than 12 weeks and cannot be explained by another cause are referred to as “guidance for health experts.” Symptoms that lasted four weeks or longer were included in the Lancet study.