Omicron is less likely to cause long Covid than Delta, research suggests

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The odds of having long Covid during the Omicron outbreak were lower, but more people were infected, new research suggests  (PA Wire)
The odds of having long Covid during the Omicron outbreak were lower, but more people were infected, new research suggests (PA Wire)

The Omicron variant is less likely to cause long Covid than the Delta strain, a new study suggests.

Researchers from King’s College London found the odds of having long Covid were between 20 and 50 percent lower during the Omicron outbreak, compared with the Delta wave.

The analysis showed that 4.4 percent of Omicron cases were long Covid, compared to 10.8 perecnt of Delta cases.

But the total number of people with long Covid was higher during the Omicron period because many more were infected with the variant between December and February.

Lead author Dr Claire Steves said: "The Omicron variant appears substantially less likely to cause long Covid than previous variants but still one in 23 people who catch Covid-19 go on to have symptoms for more than four weeks.

"Given the numbers of people affected it’s important that we continue to support them at work, at home and within the NHS."

The Office for National Statistics estimates the number of people with long Covid increased from 1.3 million in January to two million as of May 1.

Long Covid is defined by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) guidelines as having new or ongoing symptoms four weeks or more after the start of disease.

Symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of concentration and joint pain.

As well as affecting day-to-day activities, for some people the condition can be severely limiting.

The study identified 56,003 UK adults who tested positive between December 20 last year and March 9 this year, when Omicron was the dominant strain.

Researchers compared these to 41,361 cases first testing positive between June 1 and November 27 last year, when the Delta was the dominant variant.

The analysis is published in a letter to The Lancet.

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