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Denmark’s lengthy COVID sufferers really feel deserted by pandemic response

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When Pia Krabbe Larsson bought sick within the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it felt like a nasty flu, however she was again at work 10 days later. Then the complications began, adopted by crushing fatigue.

By July 2020, Larsson was successfully bedridden and took a depart of absence from her job as a house nurse in Farum, Denmark. She by no means went again.

After visiting a number of docs, Larsson, 44, was finally identified with myalgic encephalomyelitis/persistent fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a severe postviral situation that impacts the nervous system and has been linked by some researchers to lengthy COVID.

“It’s a troublesome time,” stated Thomas Clifford Larsson, Pia’s husband. “However she’s my spouse [and] we’re household. And also you do issues for household you’ll not do for every other folks.”

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The Larssons are removed from alone. The Institute for Well being Metrics and Analysis estimates that as of 2021, about 29,940 Danes had developed lengthy COVID lasting at the least three months – and as 2022 involves a detailed, the toll is probably going even increased.

That’s regardless of a typically lauded pandemic response.

In September 2021, Denmark turned the primary European Union nation to raise all COVID-19 restrictions, citing its excessive vaccination price and compliance with public well being steerage.

Authorities briefly reinstated some measures in the course of the Omicron-driven surge in early 2022 and launched a fall booster jab marketing campaign in September for high-risk Danes forward of an anticipated winter wave.

However now, as a lot of the nation strikes on from the pandemic, Danes with lengthy COVID, or “senfølger,” say they really feel left behind.

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“Many people are simply bored with lengthy COVID not being recognised by the well being system in Denmark,” stated Katja Pedersen, one other one who has been coping with long-term signs after COVID-19 however who has struggled to get a analysis.

“We expertise that there’s no assist to get from the docs or our well being system, so there’s not a lot combating spirit left.”

Lengthy COVID is a nebulous illness that may current with a spread of signs.

Analysis printed this summer time in Nature Communicationsdiscovered that even amongst non-hospitalised COVID-19 sufferers in Denmark, a “appreciable proportion” had lingering signs as much as a yr later, together with bodily and psychological exhaustion, problem concentrating, reminiscence issues and bother sleeping.

Denmark has arrange a handful of specialized clinics for sufferers with lengthy COVID.

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Early on, they centered on creating referral pointers for docs and hospitals the place these sufferers had been more likely to present up, stated Dr Jane Agergaard, who treats lengthy COVID sufferers as an affiliate infectious ailments professor at Aarhus College Hospital.

“Now we have numerous sufferers nonetheless,” stated Agergaard. “The factor is, it’s totally tough to have a illness that you simply’re not in a position to diagnose with sure medical assessments.”

A number of sufferers stated they’ve struggled to get an official analysis and remedy. Dorthe Witzell, 57, stated she’s been grappling with mind fog, ache and fatigue since getting COVID-19 in December 2020.

“I’ve seen a really nice variation of how the system has been working,” Witzell stated. “However the end result is similar: They haven’t any solutions.”

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The coverage response to any well being disaster requires trade-offs.

All through the pandemic, Danes have been extra involved with the system-level dangers of COVID-19, such because the potential that hospitals might develop into overwhelmed, than their particular person threat of getting sick, polling exhibits.

This spring, 50% of Danish adults stated they had been involved about lengthy COVID’s dangers, in response to Michael Bang Petersen, a political scientist at Aarhus College who suggested the federal government’s pandemic response.

He stated it’s exhausting to say whether or not that share can be increased if authorities had publicly emphasised lengthy COVID extra – or if the authorities would prioritise lengthy COVID extra if Danes had been extra apprehensive.

“There may be alignment between the response and the perceptions of the vast majority of Danes,” Petersen stated.

The query now’s whether or not the Omicron variant, which led to Denmark’s greatest COVID-19 wave but final winter and any rising variants will result in a rise in lengthy COVID sufferers – and if that’s the case, how extreme their signs will probably be.

In letting Omicron rip, Danish authorities assumed that as a result of the variant typically precipitated milder diseases, the following burden of lengthy COVID would even be smaller. A preprint examine from the Statens Serum Institut signifies that the wager has paid off, with a decrease threat of lingering signs related to Omicron than the Delta variant.

However fewer lengthy COVID sufferers doesn’t imply zero, stated Anders Hviid, performing head of SSI’s epidemiology division and the examine’s lead researcher.

“There nonetheless are extra signs than you’ll anticipate, months after you have been contaminated.”

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In all, lengthy COVID sufferers stated the shortage of communication from the highest has hampered their potential to make their struggles recognized to the Danish public and to push for higher remedy.

They stated they need worldwide analysis on lengthy COVID to be shared extra extensively, for docs to be taught extra about signs and rising therapies and for extra help from their workplaces.

“I would like corporations to be extra conscious of what we’re really coping with,” stated Eva Schomacker Munnecke, 54, an workplace supervisor who’s struggled to work full-time since creating lengthy COVID. “It is exhausting to be the one to have to elucidate this unexplainable factor.”

The problem isn’t going away anytime quickly. The World Well being Group is urging European nations to take lengthy COVID critically, given its anticipated toll on world well being and economics within the years to come back.

“We’re saying, cling on a minute, this isn’t performed but, we have nonetheless bought tens of millions of people who find themselves doubtlessly struggling for a protracted time period,” stated Catherine Smallwood, senior emergency officer for the WHO’s European area.

In Denmark and world wide, lengthy COVID sufferers will probably be ready. They haven’t any different alternative.

“When an individual dies, you’ve got a interval of unhappiness it’s a must to undergo to simply accept the state of affairs that by no means might be the identical,” Witzell stated. She sees parallels with lengthy COVID: “It is not a illness that kills you, nevertheless it takes your life away.”

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