MEA Letter Published by The Times re: Why is Britain the Long Covid capital of the world?

June 16, 2021


Following a disappointing article from Josh Glancy that appeared in The Times on 14 June, the ME Association and Dr Charles Shepherd have now had an edited version of their letter published this morning. We show both versions of the letter below:

Published Letter to The Times 16 June 2021

Re: Why is Britain the Long Covid capital of the world?

Sir, A great deal of research is taking place in the UK into the cause of, and treatment for, Long Covid.

However, although it “may seem that Britain is the Long Covid capital of the world” (Jun 12), research estimates for the prevalence of Long Covid in the UK are very similar to those of many other countries.

In fact, in some parts of the world the prevalence is significantly higher.

Long Covid has a number of clinical and pathological overlaps with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome so it is not surprising to find that recognition may be higher in countries where ME/CFS is properly recognised as another very debilitating post-viral condition.

Prolonged post-viral syndromes can be triggered by any type of viral infection ranging from Ebola to chickenpox, regardless of ethnicity, sex, or social class.

It is to be hoped that the emergence of Long Covid will put an end to people having their prolonged post-viral illnesses being dismissed as purely psychological and that collaborative research into post-viral syndromes such as Long Covid and ME/CFS that are aimed at finding effective forms of treatment will now take place.

Dr Charles Shepherd, Hon medical adviser, ME Association

Original Letter to The Times 14 June 2021

Re: Why is Britain now the capital of Long Covid?

Dear Editor,

This report was very disappointing in the way it presented the worldwide prevalence of Long Covid and the failure to properly address a central and incorrect accusation that the reason for Long Covid becoming so prevalent in the UK was due to the “chronic fatigue lobby”.

A great deal of research is taking place in the UK into both the cause and treatment of Long Covid. However, the UK has not become ‘the capital of Long Covid’ in relation to either research or the number of people who are affected.  

The current research estimates for prevalence here in the UK are very similar to many other countries. In fact, in some parts of the world the prevalence is significantly higher. And funding for research into Long Covid in the USA far exceeds that in the UK.

Long Covid has a number of clinical and pathological overlaps with ME/CFS.  So, it is not surprising to find that recognition may be higher in countries where ME/CFS is properly recognised as another very debilitating post-viral condition.  

The main role of ME/CFS charities such as the ME Association has been to reach out to the Long Covid patient community and provide information and support on symptoms that overlap with ME/CFS.

Prolonged post-viral syndromes can be triggered by any type of viral infection ranging from Ebola to chickenpox – regardless of ethnicity, sex and social class.

Hopefully, the emergence of Long Covid will put an end to people having their prolonged post-viral illnesses being dismissed as purely psychological and that collaborative research into post-viral syndromes such as Long Covid and ME/CFS, that are aimed at finding effective forms of treatment, will now take place.

Dr Charles Shepherd, Hon. Medical Adviser, ME Association

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