Long Covid and ME/CFS: are they the same

Updated booklet: Long Covid and ME/CFS, are they the same condition?

Dr Charles Shepherd, Hon. Medical Adviser, has updated the existing booklet that reviews key clinical and causative overlaps that occur between Long Covid and ME/CFS.


It is estimated that around 10% of people who catch COVID-19 infection are failing to fully recover and have what has been termed Long Covid (or the post COVID-19 syndrome). This is a diagnosis that is normally made when a person is still symptomatic 3 months after the onset of an infection where there is good clinical evidence that it was caused by COVID-19. Having a positive COVID-19 test is helpful but not essential.

At present, there is no diagnostic blood test for either Long Covid or ME/CFS. The process of diagnosis is very similar for both conditions. This requires three months of symptoms along with the exclusion of other possible explanations.

The ME Association (MEA) takes the view that Long Covid and ME/CFS are both examples of a serious and debilitating condition that can follow any type of viral infection. And while a wide range of viral (and sometimes non-viral) infections can trigger ME/CFS, in previous coronavirus infection outbreaks (e.g. SARS/severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2002-2004 and MERS/Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in 2012) there were reports in the medical literature of some people going on to develop an ME/CFS-like illness.

Both conditions have some key symptoms in common and there may be a similar level of fluctuating functional impairment in both. However, there are some important differences that distinguish some people with Long Covid from those with ME/CFS.

There is also an increasing number of people who have had Long Covid, or symptoms suggestive of Long Covid, who are now being diagnosed with post-COVID ME/CFS.

While research is taking place into all aspects of Long Covid, we are only just beginning to understand the complexities of this condition. We clearly need research studies that compare all aspects of Long Covid and ME/CFS to see where there are similar disease processes involved.

Given the many overlaps between trigger factors, symptoms and causative mechanisms, research into Long Covid could well provide useful information relating to both the cause and treatment of ME/CFS.

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