CORONAVIRUS patients can suffer with agonising symptoms for months, scientists have warned.
Some people – known as "long haulers" – have reported battling with the lingering problems despite overcoming Covid-19.
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The most common symptom is crippling fatigue, but others have experienced aching muscles and difficulty concentrating.
It comes after experts last week claimed coronavirus patients who lost their sense of taste or smell may never get it back.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said it was difficult to know the true scale of the issue.
Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show on Sunday, he said: “This is a really serious problem for a minority of people who have Covid.
“Some people have long-term effects that look like a post-viral fatigue syndrome.”
Scientists have only just started to investigate the potential causes, but say there could be a wide range of reasons why some are facing a longer recovery than others.
Without an explanation for their lingering problems, support groups for "long-haulers" have started popping up online.
Peggy Goroly, 56, from New York, joined a support group on Facebook after continuing to suffer with fatigue and shortness of breath.
She first tested positive for for the virus in April, but a test on May 21 – more than 100 days after her symptoms started – came back negative, leaving her stumped.
She told Business Insider: "We're all kind of diagnosing each other.
"You'll hear someone else say something and then you realise it's happening to you, too.
"I try to spread the word around to other people that they should be very careful, this isn't a joke, and I'm still sick and people can't understand."
At the start of the pandemic, experts suggested that most coronavirus patients will experience mild symptoms that last for 14 days.
The World Health Organisation said that for severe or critical patients, the recovery period could last up to six weeks.
But scientists are starting to acknowledge that for some people, their symptoms aren't sticking to those timescales.
Jay Butler, deputy director of infectious diseases at the US' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last month: "We hear anecdotal reports of people who have persistent fatigue, shortness of breath.
"How long that will last is hard to say."
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for the WHO's pandemic response, said: "Indeed, there are some people who have persistent symptoms, like a long-term cough.
"They may feel quite fatigued for some time, may feel some shortness of breath while they're climbing stairs, but we are working to better understand what recovery looks like — and more specifically, and more importantly, what type of long-term care, if needed."
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Chris Brightling, a professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Leicester, is leading a newly announced £8.4m study into the long-term health impacts of Covid-19.
He told the Guardian: “One of the big challenges is that there’s so much that we don’t yet understand."
His study will track around 10,000 patients who were admitted to hospital with Covid-19 to find out how many ended up with long-term health problems.
It could help pave the way for better treatments and medical support for those who are left struggling months after initially becoming ill.
Prof Brightling added: “People who specialise in fatigue are seeing people with multiple reasons why they’ve ended up at that point.”
As the trigger for fatigue is known, he added that “it gives you a way of trying to unravel that puzzle."
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