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HIQA review of long Covid finds prevalence rates ‘varied considerably’ across international studies

By Reporter - 31st May 2023

covid-19 response

A new Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) international review of long Covid  found that prevalence rates “varied considerably” across primary research studies.

HIQA today published its international review of the epidemiology of long Covid. The review was undertaken   at the request of the HSE to inform its long Covid model of care.

HIQA’s review included 51 primary research studies, which examined over 1.1 million participants, and four international registry documents.

HIQA said it “found that prevalence rates varied considerably across the studies”.

According to HIQA in studies based on self-reported data, “estimates for the prevalence of long Covid in the general population ranged from 15 per cent to 53 per cent”.

“Much of this variation may be due to differences in reporting methods and population demographics within studies.” While prevalence estimates were highest in those with a history of severe Covid-19 illness, long Covid was reported across all populations and age groups.

Ms Michelle O’Neill, Deputy Director of health technology assessment at HIQA, said: “There is still a lot to learn about long Covid, but we found that those with long Covid are more likely to be women, to be older, and to have been admitted to hospital because of Covid-19. It is not known why long Covid occurs.”

“In those who have had Covid-19, some people may experience worsening of a pre-existing condition, while some experience new symptoms or conditions, or experience symptoms that continue long after the initial infection has ended.”

No studies on the prevalence of long Covid in Ireland were identified. HIQA has advised that further research on long Covid in Ireland may better inform healthcare resourcing.

According to HIQA long Covid “is a complex condition involving a wide range of symptoms that can be debilitating and vary significantly from person to person”. The most common symptoms include fatigue, brain fog, memory loss and or confusion, a loss of smell and shortness of breath. “Although many people will experience an improvement in symptoms over time, for some long Covid can be long-lasting.”

The full review can be found on www.hiqa.ie.

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