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‘Long flu’: study finds flu patients at higher risk of longer-term illness

People who have been hospitalised with flu are at an increased risk of longer-term health problems, similar to those with long Covid, data suggests.

While the symptoms associated with such “long flu” appear to be more focused on the lungs than ongoing Covid symptoms, in both cases the risk of death and disability was greater in the months after infection than in the first 30 days.

“It is very clear that long flu is worse than the flu, and Long Covid is worse than Covid,” said Dr Ziyad Al-Aly, a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, who led the research.

He was motivated to study the phenomenon after observing the scale of long-term illness experienced by people who have recovered from Covid.

“Five years ago, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to examine the possibility of a ‘long flu.’ But one of the major lessons we learned from this pandemic is that a virus we all initially thought could only cause acute disease is leaving millions of people with long Covid, he said. “We wondered whether this could be happening with other things. Could this be happening with the flu, for example?”

The research, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, found that while Covid patients faced a greater risk of death or hospital readmission in the following 18 months, both infections carried a significant risk of ongoing disability and disease.

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Source: The Guardian, 14 December 2023


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