Data collected by the Long Covid Cyprus network of the Cyprus Federation of Patients' Associations from the Health Insurance Organisation showed that by the end of last month, a total of 29,377 people suffered from long covid symptoms.
The data was presented during a press conference by the Federation’s chairman, Marios Koulouma and scientists who urged the federation members to answer two different questionnaires regarding the issue. The first questionnaire was available to patients from October 2021 until April 2022.
The replies indicate that there is a great need for psychosocial support for patients, in addition to medical care.
Long covid is a multisystemic inflammatory condition that affects many organs and can be manifested with various symptoms. It cannot be predicted who will develop long covid, nor does age, underlying conditions or vaccination status play any role.
The sample consisted of 528 people (women and men). A total of 55% said that before becoming infected they considered the coronavirus as a serious condition which, however, they believed had a mild outcome. Another 36% viewed COVID with anxiety and reticence, 8% were indifferent and 1% did not give any significance to COVID.
One in five persons said they faced discrimination during and after the disease, 57% withdrew socially, 25% continue to face financial problems and 60% continue to manifest at least one of COVID-19’s symptoms.
Following recuperation, 36% still have symptoms but are mild, 26% have symptoms that are "annoying" but not severe, 9% still have severe symptoms and 30% said they do not have any other symptoms.
Fifty percent said they visited a specialist doctor to treat their ongoing symptoms, 41% did not, 8% visited only a specialist doctor and 1% discussed their condition with their pharmacist.
9% did contact a psychologist, 81% did not and 10% are considering it.
Twenty percent of people said fatigue is the most persistent symptom after the disease, 16% reported taste/smell disorders and 10% coughing while 60% said that even nowadays they have at least one symptom, 19% said that the symptoms lasted more than two weeks, 17% beyond one week, 12% beyond three weeks, 13% beyond 5 to 8 weeks, 10% beyond four weeks, 9% beyond 12 weeks, 5% beyond 20 weeks and 2% beyond 36-52 weeks.
In addition, 79% of the participants were vaccinated against COVID-19. Nineteen percent said that after vaccination their symptoms improved, however, 6% said they deteriorated while 11% said some improved and others worsened and 64% said neither negatively nor positively their symptoms were affected after vaccination.
The replies of participants in terms of their social life are interesting, according to the study. After the illness, 20% said they have problems or difficulties with friends while 57% have moved away from their social environment, 7% have anxiety and 7% have feelings of fear.
Twenty-five percent said they have financial problems while 75% said they do not.
After COVID-19, one in two participants stated they faced sleeping problems. Fifty-six percent said they had troubled sleep, 52% apnea, 35% could not sleep for long and 10% said they have nightmares.
Five percent continue to have sleeping problems while 35% said they have trouble keeping up with housework or self-care.
Regarding symptoms manifested after the infection, 97% said they find they are easily fatigued, 73% have myalgia, 71% have shortness of breath or dyspnoea, 52% experience confusion and brain fog, 39% present anxiety, 12% are indifferent and 4% have dizziness and headaches.
Twenty-three percent are facing depression with 2% saying that they are not satisfied with how they feel.
The second question confirms the findings of the first questionnaire and was available for patients from July-August 2022. The aim was to find out the biggest daily obstacles people with long covid have.
To the question "to what extent do you face difficulties in simple cognitive acts (concentration disorder, forgetting easily),” 95% gave a 3 out of 5 score.
Asked if they are more easily physically tired than before they got sick, 97% scored 5, 2% scored 4 and 1% scored 3.
A total of 97% scored 3 for facing sleep disorders while 2% scored 5.
Asked if long covid symptoms have exacerbated other chronic problems, 60% replied positively.
Other problems patients faced concern the menstrual cycle, dermatitis, anosmia, tinnitus, and joint problems. The general feeling is that patients want their lives back, the study indicated.