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tv   Long Covid  BBC News  July 18, 2021 4:30pm-5:01pm BST

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hello, this is bbc news. the headlines: the german chancellor angela visits in germany hit by devastating floods. she says the world must hurry in its fight against global warming and promises aid to rebuilding the area quickly. the prime minister and chancellor have been accused of a u—turn. they are self isolating after coming into contact with the health secretary who has tested positive for the virus, but at first the government said they were exempt from isolation because they were part of an isolation scheme. i because they were part of an isolation scheme.— because they were part of an isolation scheme. i urge everybody to stick with _ isolation scheme. i urge everybody to stick with the _ isolation scheme. i urge everybody to stick with the programme - isolation scheme. i urge everybody to stick with the programme and i isolation scheme. i urge everybody i to stick with the programme and take the appropriate course of action when you are asked to do so by nhs test and trace. two athletes and an official at the tokyo olympic village have tested
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positive for coronavirus just five days before the start of the games. now on bbc news, panorama: long covid — will i ever get better? bbc correspondent lucy adams is one of more than a million people in the uk with long covid. she's been suffering a range of symptoms for more than a year and wants to know why. it's 11 weeks since i started with a fever and some of the symptoms of coronavirus. i'm lucy adams, a bbc correspondent. i've got a really hoarse sore throat and a headache. i got covid last year but never got better. i've been ill for eight... breaks down. i've been ill for eight months now. and i'm getting really fed up on it. like a million others
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in the uk, i have long covid. banging headache, i'm aching all over, got an earache, sore throat, my chest is killing me. i'm absolutely exhausted. i want to know why we're feeling so bad... just take some deep breaths in. what's behind this baffling condition? if we knew that, i feel like we'd have quite a lot of goodies to offer people to maybe, you know, make them better. and with fears of far more infections as covid restrictions are lifted, will i ever get better? doorbell rings hi, guys, how was school? good! we did mother's day stuff for you. did you? it's secret! don't tell me then!
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i live in glasgow with my husband andy and daughters nuala and niamh. he usually picks them up from school because i struggle to. i tend to go to bed a few times each day. when i'm up, i look fine, but ijust get more and more tired, and then symptoms come in. so maybe start, like, maybe shaking. i'm normally in bed between 1:00 and 3:00. i try to get up for the kids coming back. you making this for mother's day? what are you making? the sky because my mummy loves birds. she loves birds, doesn't she? is mummy able to come and run around with you? no, because sometimes she's in bed and sometimes she just walks.
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yeah. i'm not the only one in the family who's ill. did you stay in the head teachers office at break time? yes. why did you go to the head teacher's office at breaktime? because i had long covid. you go and get a rest? yeah. nuala, who's eight, also has long covid. she has good and bad days, with bouts of fatigue. an estimated 33,000 children in the uk have long covid. i'm pretty exhausted. trying to hold down a full time and quite demanding job and then obviously lucy's illness is so unpredictable. well, i say that, but sometimes it's predictable in the fact that she does half hour or an hour
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activity and then after that, she's just exhausted. me! that's beautiful, niamh! at least one in eight people who get covid go on to get long covid. most say it's had a big impact on their lives. and i feel absolutely awful, feel so sick. i mouth ulcers, cold sores. i was supposed to be doing seven hours of work todayl and i've not managed it. i've had to get back in bed 'cause i feel so sick. - ijust want this to end. i've had enough. so my partner has gone out with the little one and the very, very little one woke up very quickly, so i gave him some milk, he's obviously very tired. as you can see, not very happy. however, i can't stand up or can't settle him so i basically have to sit here with him crying till
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mummy comes back home. sometimes when i do activities, and this time just making - breakfast was enough, _ i basically get, my heart rate jumps up loads and i get pins- and needles all over my body and i feel generally unwell. today, i'm struggling, i'm tired, which then makes me really worried about returning to work. ijust want to get back and be a nurse. around a million people in the uk have long covid. studies suggest most are women. and at least a third, like suzie and me, have had it for more than a year. that'sjust going up my stairs. tired.
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hey, suzie, how are you doing? hi. how are you? i'm all right. sorry i can't be there in person. i'm too unwell to travel to suzie's, so we meet on zoom. suzie is one of around 120,000 healthcare workers with long covid. she's desperate to get back to the wards, but for now can only do desk work from home. i sometimes can't find the words, especially when i'm tired and quite fatigued, it's worse, but... and i'll be like, i know the word, i know the word, i know... i can see it in my brain, but ijust almost like can't pick it out and get it to come out of my gob. and it's really random. like, one word and i'm going to try to say it... dom, domes...
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ah, can't say it! one in five people with long covid struggle with memory, concentration or brain fog. ijust kept on thinking, i'll be over this soon, i'll be over this, i'll start getting better. and i actually at one stage thought i was going completely and utterly barmy — am i imagining this, am i being a hypochondriac? so then i was driving even harder, driving myself even harder and harder to get better and push through those moments where you're completely exhausted. other people just didn't get it, you know. one person turned round and said to me, "erm, well, you go out to the shops, don't you?" they didn't see the walking, you know, and then the after effect. and it was just really, really quite upsetting at one... it's like, "are you all right?" oh, bless.
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sorry. you're just describing it so well. her story is so like mine it's hard to listen to. i did stuff like going... i was so determined to sort of push on through so i would like, do what i would normally do, so go for a bike ride, i'm really struggling to breathe but i'm on my bike, "i'm fine, i must be fine now." and then came back... my temperature was 103 and i had to go straight to bed, and you think, "well, anyone who saw me on the bike ride "would be like, well, she's totally fine, you know, "she looks fine." today i've got an appointment
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at my local medical centre for a blood test. it feels really weird to be out of the house, and to be filming again cos i've not been working for such a long time. sort of a little bit nerve—wracking. i've already had one set of blood tests, a chest x—ray and a heart check. all of these came back normal. my heart's racing now after coming up the stairs. i should have taken the lift but i'm really stubborn. lucy? it's thought several different things could be to blame for long covid. organ damage from the original virus. the virus reactivating. problems with the immune system. or it could be a combination of all of these things. i'm still out of breath from walking up the stairs. just relax, 0k. sharp scratch.
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it's a new disease — so there aren't any diagnostic tests yet. my blood test will simply rule out if there's anything else wrong with me. got my bloods taken this morning — should have been a really easy, simple thing to do. it's like five minutes away, in and out. i just feel completely and utterly wiped out. i get the results a week later. again, they're all normal. across the uk, governments have invested around £50 million in research into the disease. professor danny altmann has been
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studying viruses for four decades. his team is analysing the blood of people with long covid to try to discover the cause. they suspect the answer is in our immune system. i'm pleased the numbers are perking up a bit. what are you looking for, what are you hoping to find? we're trying to explain, you know, what is the common denominator between the symptoms and where have they come from, because if we knew that, ifeel like we'd have lots of goodies to offer people to maybe, you know, make them better. how's it going? when you get a virus your immune system creates antibodies to fight the infection. but sometimes this can go wrong... i think we've finished i analysing the dataset. surprisingly complex. so, what the team are looking for here is what's called "auto antibodies" which attack healthy cells.
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if the team find signs of these damaging auto antibodies, then diagnostic tests and treatments could follow. but while we wait for science to catch up with this new disease, how long might our symptoms last? you know, is this a six month problem or a one year problem or a five year problem or a forever problem? none of us know. if you asked me to kind of, you know, place my bets from things that i know about other related, kind of post viral immunological effects, i'd be disappointed if most people with long covid weren't better or feeling quite a lot better within two or three years max, i hope. that's a long time to feel as ill, as many of us do. it could mean many thousands of people are off work for years, a significant impact on the economy and the nhs. my guesstimate is that the healthcare needs for those people run in to the billions,
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and it's notjust the money, it's which clinic will they be seen in? who will the doctors be? who will the nurses be? as the interview ends, nuala has some questions of her own about the illness she too has had to cope with. why did my body think covid was still there? that's a good question. one of doctors said to me it was almost like a ghost of the virus in your blood system. i don't know and they still don't know if it was the live virus that was attacking your body, or whether your body itself sort of got confused and your immune system started attacking itself and again. i don't know and they are still trying to work that out and if they can work that out, then hopefully they can find a way of curing people. you've got makeup? yes, i have got makeup on. did you put that on so you didn't
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look like you were so tired? yes, and so that i looked less tired and so i looked ok on camera. long covid means nuala has struggled with full time school. in april, she was admitted to hospitalfor tests. they gave her a device to help with her breathing. you lose that spontaneity in your life because you can'tjust think today is a nice day, i'll go for a walk. because what energy you have got, you have to plan it. while some people may improve with time and rest, others may have organ damage that needs medical treatment. athmaja thottungal, a consultant anaesthetist, she got covid in february last year. i started having severe joint pain,
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heart racing, chest pain, difficulty breathing. i had a couple of days in the night i woke up from sleep with intense chest pain. that really made me quite alert about this because i thought i need to get some — some more help. later, when athmaja had her heart monitored for 72 hours, it was discovered she needed medication. she's waiting for further tests. so what help is available to patients? leicester was one of the worst—hit cities during the first wave and one of the first to open a long covid clinic. this is an appointment to see how you are feeling now and if there are any ongoing problems and if you need any further investigations. i felt breathless and i had a pain
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in my rib cage here. the clinic has been open for 13 months and has seen thousands of patients. whatjob do you do? shift manager. i'm back on a phased return. so the ongoing symptoms you're left with fatigue, brain fog, numbness on your right thigh, hair loss, what about the breathlessness? because you said that was really bad for the first few weeks. i'm using my inhaler a lot and still do. i this is enya, one of our senior physiotherapists. these persistent symptoms seems to be something that the virus has caused, either in inflammation or autoimmunity or in other mechanisms and that doesn't seem to matter whether somebody was hospitalised or not at the beginning, and that's why it's really important that we have equitable care for both groups.
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at first, this clinic only treated patients who'd been hospitalised with covid, some of whom had pre—existing health conditions. but now they're seeing patients who weren't hospitalised too. we're going to discuss samya this morning. we'lljust take you through one at a time. we need expertise from different disciplines so be that nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychology, but also heart specialists, brain specialist, specialists in diabetes so that we really put a package of care to help the person with all their different problems. when you are ready. but access to this kind of care can vary greatly, depending on where you live. wales, where i live now, doesn't have any long covid clinics and they aren't planning to set
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any up either. i've got an appointment tomorrow with the respiratory clinic. - i've been waiting five months for this and ijust hope - they can sort my chest out. after the third referral, i was told the clinic was yet not running. i was passed from pillar to post and it was really, really confusing, and a — a real battle. and, um, one that is hard to fight when you're sick. while i've been stuck at home, i've been looking into where long covid clinics are available. there are 89 in england. some only accept patients who've been hospitalised. and there can be long waiting times. nhs england says it's invested more than £134 million in long covid services. neither scotland nor wales have specialised clinics. both say they are strengthening existing services. scotland is funding research.
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northern ireland's first clinics will open in october. i'm going to edinburgh tomorrow to get a brain scan. which is slightly daunting. but i'm part of a study looking at impact on brain of long covid. so, i guess i'm feeling a bit nervous about that, hoping that they don't find any problem. researchers at edinburgh university are scanning the brains of 100 people with long covid. i suffer migraines, vertigo and brain fog. could these be signs of brain damage? professor alan carson is a leading neuropsychiatrist.
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before the scan, he puts me through a battery of tests. i'm just moving my finger to make it harderfor you. his team are notjust looking for signs of brain damage. they also want to see if our brains and bodies may be mis—communicating. dizziness? yes. heart pounding? yes. nerves or feeling anxious? yes. ultimately, pain is only perceived in the brain, temperature control for the body comes from the brain, breathing regulation comes from the brain, sense of balance comes from the brain and all of these things can be distorted by brain functions. i'm so exhausted after four hours of tests, i fall asleep in the exam room. next is the brain scan.
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are you all right there? there's her teeth and her lips coming through, nose, eyes, base of her neck, spine. it's quite weird looking at your own brain. looking at your own brain... yeah, but if you have to look at your brain, you want it to look like that. basically, that's nice and healthy—looking. there's no sign of any damage to any of the white matter or anything. although you've had a rough time of it, most of the problems should be reversible. that's a relief, but what does he think is causing my symptoms, then? i think the constellation of symptoms are quite typical of what people report with long covid. you've clearly got a tendency towards a breathing dysfunction.
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it's understandable from the hard time you were acutely unwell that you've developed this sort of rather rapid pattern breathing in the aftermath. that leaves you feeling breathless after any activity. this is a revelation for me. my poor breathing leaves too much carbon dioxide in my system, which could partly explain some of the symptoms, including headaches. he refers me for respiratory tests. do you think that people with long covid overall, difficult question, will get better? yes. i think the evidence is already emerging that the majority of people get better. there will be some people with post—covid complications that will involve structural damage, whether to the brain, my area of interest,
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or whether to your lungs or heart and there the outcome will be more variable. but i think for the majority of people, it's about a slow recouperation period rather than permanent sickness. as the uk opens up, there are concerns many more people could be at risk of long covid. i was sort of aiming for somewhere with a bench, actually. covid cases are rising fast. while the vaccine reduces serious illness or death, it doesn't stop all infections — and children and many young people haven't even been vaccinated. one of the things we know for absolute certain is that long covid can ensue from any form of infection, asymptomatic, mild, severe, so if we're heading into a phase of 100,000 cases
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per day in the coming months and we're saying that ten to 20% of all infections can result in long covid, i can see no certainty that we're not brewing those long covid cases despite having a vaccinated population. but professor altman says there could be some good news from the early findings of his research. his team is analysing the blood of long covid patients for signs of autoantibodies which attack healthy cells. the pilot data we have says that you really can pick up different patterns of autoimmunity in people who have long covid, so, you know, it's the start of the road but we're quite chuffed about it. it's only a small study and more research is needed. but having identified these autoantibodies, they hope it'll be easier to diagnose this form of long covid in the future. i'm famously optimistic,
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so i'd hope that within six months we'd have a simple blood test that you could get from your gp. and that, i think, could have quite a big impact for people who don't feel they've managed to convince their gp or accessed specialist care. because instead of being, you know, my word against yours, it has a diagnostic test. it's been 16 months since nuala and i got covid. she's nearly back to normal. i've got more energy and have fewer symptoms. but i still wake every morning with what feels like a horrible hangover — not sure if i'll ever get back to being who i was before — and it's that uncertainty that's hardest to bear.
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hello. this weekend has brought lots of sunshine and lots of warmth to the uk. and there's more to come on into the week ahead as well, as high pressure keeps our weather largely settled. saturday saw a new record high temperature in northern ireland. there was more cloud around here though on sunday, and that is because despite having high pressure, we have still managed to work the remnants of a weak cold front into the north of the uk, through sunday, hence a cooler day for scotland and northern ireland and some more cloud around here. a little bit of that cloud will trickle down the north sea coast overnight as well. a pleasant enough night for going to sleep though for scotland and northern ireland, unlike the rather sticky, humid conditions which will persist across england and wales. monday, a lot of fine weather to come, a lot of sunshine,
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some cloud will bother the north sea coast through the day but it should look brighter, particularly for the northern scotland and northern ireland and it will become warm up once again, temperatures two or three degrees up on sunday. england and wales perhaps two or three degrees down but still very warm with temperatures in the high 20s. as high—pressure sticks around, very little difference in our scenario for tuesday, still plenty of fair weather to come, the slim chance of a shower across eastern england. it could produce quite a bit of rain if we do see a shower but it is a very small risk. we have got temperatures widely in the mid to high 20s. wednesday, high—pressure sitting firmly in place, a little bit of north sea cloud, perhaps a bit of fair weather cloud inland but a lot of sunshine and a lot of warmth and that is building for glasgow and belfast through the middle of the week. temperatures 26, 27 degrees here. thursday it is looking very similar yet again. sunshine dominating the picture,
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a little bit of fair weather cloud here or there and in that sunshine, temperatures mid to high 20s. the end of the week though does pose a question mark in terms of our forecast. big areas of high pressure, always slightly unpredictable to break down how quickly they will clear away, maybe friday but certainly on into next weekend, it looks like the picture will become dramatically different as low pressure sweeps into the uk, ushers in cooler air and i think we will see some pretty big thunderstorms for a time as well.
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this is bbc news with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. the german chancellor angela merkel visits the german region worst—affected by devastating floods. she says the world must hurry in its fight against global warming. insulation —— translation macro it has something to do with climate change. we have to get a move on. iam i am kasia madera live in sinzig in western germany, a town that was completely submerged by waterfalls and now the clean—up operation these people are facing is overwhelming. the uk prime minister and chancellor
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