THOUSANDS of people recovering from the coronavirus are experiencing symptoms of debilitating condition ME, doctors have warned.
The NHS has been put under great strain due to the Covid-19 pandemic and experts have now warned that it could face a “post virus tsunami”.
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Expert in infectious disease at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine Paul Garner said he still felt exhausted 14 weeks after having had Covid-19.
Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) he said he has been unable to get out of bed for stretches of longer than three hours and that he has “ringing in the ears”.
He said: “A post-viral tsunami is hitting our health services right now, yet in the UK it doesn’t even seem to be on the national agenda.”
Prof Garner had also penned an article in May where he talked about “post Covid fatigue” and said his symptoms have continued.
What is chronic fatigue?
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a long-term illness with a wide range of symptoms. The most common symptom is extreme tiredness.
CFS is also known as ME, which stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis. Many people refer to the condition as CFS/ME.
CFS/ME can affect anyone, including children. It’s more common in women, and tends to develop between your mid-20s and mid-40s.
The main symptom of CFS/ME is feeling extremely tired and generally unwell.
In addition, people with CFS/ME may have other symptoms, including:
- Sleep problems
- Muscle or joint pain
- A sore throat or sore glands that are not swollen
- Problems thinking, remembering or concentrating
- Flu-like symptoms
- Feeling dizzy or sick
- Fast or irregular heartbeats (heart palpitations)
Most people find overexercising makes their symptoms worse.
The severity of symptoms can vary from day to day, or even within a day.
The symptoms of CFS/ME are similar to the symptoms of some other illnesses, so it’s important to speak to a GP to get a correct diagnosis.
“Now, at week 14, my symptoms have progressed. The waves of mind boggling headaches and severe prostration have ebbed.
“An excellent hospital consultant examined me. ‘Post-viral fatigue’, he said.
“You don’t need an echocardiogram or CT scan. I recommend rest and pace.”
The symptoms Prof Garner has been experiencing are similar to that of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or chronic fatigue syndrome.
Some are also developing a post COVID-19 syndrome with symptoms that are seen in people with ME.
Dr Charles Shepherd
Charities have predicted a sharp increase in cases as a result of the pandemic.
Dr Charles Shepherd, medical adviser at the ME Association said: “The ME Association is dealing with increasing numbers of people who are failing to recover from COVID-19 and are now suffering from debilitating fatigue
“Most of these people were self managed at home when they were ill with COVID-19
“Some are also developing a post COVID-19 syndrome with symptoms that are seen in people with ME.”
He added that the charity is also starting to hear from people who have been ill for three or four months and are now being diagnosed with post Covid ME.
“Providing proper support and management for people with post COVID-19 fatigue and post COVID-19 ME is going to be a huge challenge for the health services in the months to come.”
Data shows that around 80 per cent of ME cases are triggered by an abnormal response to a viral infection.
This is while it is also estimated that around 250,000 Brits suffer from the illness.
The ME Association told The Sun that visits to its website are running at 10 to 15 per cent more than pre-Covid days.
They said many people are asking whether or not their post-Covid fatigue could be developing into ME.
Prof Garner said that after an “assault on the body” you go into “protect mode”.
“So if it isn’t getting space to recover, it shuts you down by bringing an embodied memory of the illness.
“Once I recognised this pattern, some of the angst among the thousands of ‘long haulers’ on Facebook is explained.
“Some clearly have symptoms that need investigation and management, and troubling late manifestations of the disease; but for others the return of symptoms, that may include shortness of breath, sore throat, this could be a manifestation of post-viral syndromes.”
He added that doctors have in some cases dismissed these symptoms in patients.
He said that health services are largely institutionally prejudiced against people with chronic fatigue and ME.
“In some cases these attitudes are framing the service response to Covid-19.”
Prof Garner added that doctors needed to stop diagnosing ME as anxiety.
His comments come after a new project was launched to examine genetic traits that make people more susceptible to ME.
The DecodeME programme is backed by £3.2 million and could lead the way in more effective ways to tackle the illness.
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