Two million people in France are suffering from long Covid, a new report shows, with a continuing impact on patients’ family, social and professional lives.
New figures from the French health authority Santé publique France (SPF) show some who contracted the disease in recent years are still experiencing symptoms, including fatigue, headaches, cognitive issues and respiratory problems, among other problems.
Several studies show long Covid is a genuine issue and that the disease continues to cause inflammation, but the reasons remain uncertain.
French national health research centre Inserm (l’Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale) says anyone who has had Covid can be affected by the condition but several factors appear to make it more likely.
These include the severity of the initial symptoms and the patient’s age. Women also appear to be more likely than men to get long Covid. Being vaccinated also offers more protection, as it stops the spread of the virus and can also lead to a less severe form of the illness.
‘No one case of long Covid is the same’
In a bid to help people who are still suffering, France’s health ministry invested €20million in putting ‘coordination cells’ in place last year, which are intended to help inform patients and make it easier for them to access continued care.
This scheme has been created with local health agencies - Agences régionales de santé (ARS) - and also benefited from funds from the regional investment fund le fonds d’investissement régional (FIR).
Didier Jaffre, director general of the ARS Occitanie, told the regional newspaper La Dépêche: “No one case of long Covid is the same as the other. The symptoms developed by patients are very different from one person to another. Each patient must have access to a personalised care plan.
“The most important thing is to get the right diagnosis, so patients are directed towards the right care path.”
Awareness of long Covid is still low, however, and some patients may be diagnosed with other health conditions - or even depression - before finally arriving at the correct diagnosis several months later.
However, since 2021, the illness has been recognised as a genuine long-term condition in France (une affection de longue durée, ALD). This means that its care can be 100% reimbursed by the Assurance maladie.
Patients who believe they could have long Covid can take a quiz on the Ameli.fr website, and be directed towards specific care. And some people are still getting Covid, despite cases have dropped significantly.
Mr Jaffe added: “Covid is still going around, and even though some patients have developed long Covid over the past two years, we are still regularly seeing cases from much more recently.”