Day 182 is after he was infected with Covid-19, and Charlie Russell doesn’t do the things other 27-year-olds do.
He does not run 5 km three times a week as before. He will not go to the pub. He does not work. And he’s not getting better.
“If I had known I was going to get sick, I would have taken everything much more seriously back in March,”
Instead, Russell suffered from chest pain, excruciating migraines, shortness of breath, dizziness, and exhaustion, one of the legions of Long Covid sufferers who had long-term symptoms of the coronavirus.
A record 20-year-olds tested positive for covid-19, according to the latest Public Health England data, which shows that 3,366 had the virus in the first week of September.
This is higher than 3,325 cases at the end of April, although these tests are mostly performed on people in hospitals. Although people under the age of 40 are at a much lower risk of dying from the disease, 20-year-olds like Russell catch covid-19 in far greater numbers than other age groups: 20- to 29-year-olds make up nearly 28% of all new infections.
Few will need hospital treatment, but Covid’s longtime support groups and medical experts fear a significant minority will find themselves in a severe, debilitating condition that scientists still do not understand.
“We currently have this great emphasis on the idea that younger people will get better and the main reason they don’t go out is because they can infect their grandmothers,” said Charles Shepard, a medical adviser to the ME Association, which supports people with disabilities. myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome. The association has seen a significant number of patients with long Covid turn to it for support.
“There is a risk that if younger people catch the disease, they may not get to the hospital, but they may have a disease that will exhaust them after the syndrome after Kovid. This will not happen to the majority, but there is a real risk for a significant minority, “Shepard said.
About 600,000 people have the disease after Covid, according to Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, who says about 12 percent of sufferers report symptoms of the Covid Tracker app for more than 30 days. One in 200 says the effects last more than 90 days.
Russell, a theater photographer, has not worked since he fell ill. It is exact for the date: March 14. “I had enough time to look back and think, what was I doing then? And how I wished I hadn’t. “
His illness lasted for two weeks, and he soon felt better, after which he experienced terrible chest pains “as if someone were sitting on me.” But hospital doctors and his GP said the tests showed no problems – a common experience for patients with long Covid, according to Francis Simpson, founder of the Long Covid SOS support group, which says many struggle to have their symptoms. taken seriously by the medical profession.
Russell was luckier than most – he changed his GP and the new doctor ordered an antibody test that confirmed he had the virus. He is now one of 500 patients in the Coverscan clinical trial for the effects of Covid-19.
“When people refuse to wear masks or even obey the most basic rules of social distance, it’s very, very frustrating,” Russell said. “I just want to shake them up and say, ‘I’ve been living with this for six months.’
“I think a lot of young people – and that’s human nature – think that if something doesn’t affect you directly, it almost doesn’t exist. My friends who still go out to pubs still go out to dinner and don’t take it that seriously. I’m worried about them. “
Russell was in good condition before the virus struck, with his regular 5-kilometer runs set at about 23 minutes. Now he is struggling to climb stairs.
Long Covid SOS and other groups say their members receive little help and the condition is little recognized. They want the government to formally recognize the long-term effects of the virus, provide financial support for people who cannot work for a long time at Covid, and set up multidisciplinary clinics to help assess and treat patients.
Research has recently begun on the long-term effects of Covid-19, but Shepard said the working theory is that the coronavirus has disrupted the human immune system, causing a cytokine storm or an overreaction of the body’s defense system, which is also thought to be a factor. for ME and chronic fatigue syndrome.
“Several studies over the last two or three years show that immune system dysfunction is probably related to ME,” he said. It seems that the immune system continues to activate at a low level, trying to fight a virus that no longer exists. This reaction can then affect the central nervous system and the hypothalamus.
If fatigue after Covid and ME are related, research can provide solutions to both conditions. It is difficult to study MEN, as most people with the disease have lived with it for months – if a virus has been involved, it has left little trace by the time the researchers meet with their patient.
“For the first time, you can follow people almost from day one. Researchers build large cohorts, have blood samples, and can track patients almost from the point of infection to the time they develop fatigue after the virus. We have never had the opportunity to do that before. “