The coronavirus ‘long-haulers’ show how little we still know

The coronavirus ‘long-haulers’ show how little we still know

  • My Covid-19 symptoms lasted for months. As an infectious disease specialist, I know the importance of widespread testing


To a physician scientist working on understanding the burden of respiratory infections, coronavirus is the ultimate professional challenge that might come by perhaps once in your career. However, I was not prepared for it becoming one of my biggest personal challenges too.

During the early stages of the outbreak, I came down with mild Covid-19-like symptoms. Though I was slightly worried this would hinder my ability to contribute to the immediate professional battle against this virus, I also anticipated I would be back in business within a week or two. How wrong I was – I became what we now call a Covid-19 “long-hauler” – a patient with initially mild symptoms of likely Covid-19, who would go on to experience a range of sometimes severe symptoms for a prolonged period of time.

The Covid Symptom Study, undertaken by King’s College London, has revealed that 10% of all Covid-19 patients report symptoms for at least three weeks. Surprisingly, people in this so-called Covid tail are on average younger. Most report having been previously healthy, and show relatively mild symptoms in the initial phase of illness. But they continue to experience symptoms such as fatigue, headache, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, increased heart rates and gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms for weeks or even months following the initial symptoms; often these symptoms might come and go repeatedly.