Number of people in Germany suffering from long-Covid set to 'significantly increase'
Thousands of patients in Germany are suffering from the long-term consequences of contracting Covid-19 - and experts believe this will rise in the coming months.
At the second largest German health insurance company, Barmer, more than 2,900 insured people were affected by so-called post-Covid or long-Covid syndrome between November 2020 and March 2021, an analysis found.
Meanwhile, the Deutsche Rentenversicherung (German Pension Insurance organisation) expects an increasing number of cases due to post or long Covid.
"I assume that we will see a significant increase in the next few months," said Susanne Weinbrenner from the prevention department of the Deutsche Rentenversicherung.
Long Covid affects people in different ways. The most common long-term consequences for patients in the rehabilitation facilities of the include shortness of breath, fatigue, muscular weakness, anxiety disorders, sleep problems, depression, chronic kidney diseases and chest pain. Symptoms can often last for weeks or even months.
However, it is difficult to assess the exact number of people in Germany suffering from long-Covid since the condition is new and is still being assessed.
Who is most affected by long-Covid?
Ursula Marschall, head physician at Barmer, said that many people affected by long-Covid illness are often not aware that they are suffering due to the inconsistent symptoms.
Of the Barmer policyholders who were initially on sick leave from January to March 2021 due to Covid-19, at least 6.3 percent were subsequently unable to work due to post-Covid symptoms.
Post-Covid has only been officially coded as a disease in the doctors' billing system since January 2021.
According to the Barmer survey, post-Covid syndrome occurs more frequently in women than in men. It's also very age-dependent. For example, women aged 60 and over developed post-Covid issues about six times more often than men under 40 years of age.
The research shows that post or long-Covid can occur quite frequently after a mild course of infection. A total of 47 percent of those on sick leave because of post-Covid had not previously been off work because of the initial Covid-19 infection. In these cases there was presumably an asymptomatic illness.
Medical director at the Seehof Rehabilitation Center in Teltow and head of the Psychosomatic Rehabilitation Research Group at Charité Berlin, Volker Köllner, said that Covid-19 probably leads to longer-lasting secondary symptoms more often than other infections.
Around every fourth ventilated patient subsequently struggles with mental health difficulties due to the impact of the disease.
Köllner said there will be a "relevant need" for rehabilitation facilities for long-Covid patients in Germany because of the high number of infections that have taken place in the last year.
However, he said that the majority of patients who are not seriously affected by long-Covid recover within around three months without serious consequences. Köllner estimated their share at around 90 percent.
And the good news is that initial research suggests that getting jabbed can help with long-Covid symptoms. Researchers are trying to find out why that's the case.
To burden/affect - belasten
Rehab facilities - (die) Reha-Einrichtungen (die Einrichtung)
Expect - erwarten
Significant increase - deutliche Steigerung
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