Long COVID is a dilemma: “We don’t know enough about it yet, but what we know from around the world is that this is going to be a major health challenge for the next two years at least.”
With this remark on breakfast television, Australian Health Minister Mark Butler issued an ominous warning that as COVID-19 infections increase, so will the chances of more people have persistent symptoms well past the supposed four-week recovery window.
The post-COVID-19 state – better known as ‘long COVID’ – has been described since the early stages of the pandemic, but even two years later the reasons why some people are struggling to recover completely of the disease are not known.
UNSW’s Kirby Institute is among several Australian institutions studying the profile and prevalence of long COVID. Professor Gail Matthews, who heads the institute’s research and therapeutic vaccine program, says there are a significant number of symptoms that could be experienced, making it difficult to come up with a definition of what some people feel.
“In fact, up to 100 different symptoms have been described across the long COVID spectrum,” Matthews said. recently.
A study – dubbed ‘ADAPT’ – is investigating the persistence of COVID-19 symptoms well beyond the expected four-week recovery time in patients at St Vincent’s Hospital in NSW.
“Some of our patients who were very sick when hospitalized with COVID-19 certainly took a long time to recover. It may be because they have scars in their lungs or simply because they were very sick in the hospital. And that’s not too surprising.
“But you also see a lot of people with long COVID, who actually have never been hospitalized. They may have had symptoms at home, but they were cared for in the community. It wasn’t serious enough to go to the hospital, but they still have symptoms a few months later.
So what is long COVID?
The post-COVID-19 state, more commonly referred to as “long COVID”, refers to a set of symptoms that remain with someone for a period after recovering from COVID-19. The World Health Organization defines the condition as including symptoms that persist for at least two months without further diagnosis. Australian Department of Health describe long COVID like symptoms that persist after four weeks.
How long does COVID last?
In addition to being described by people still showing symptoms of COVID-19, studies have shown that some people continue to feel the effects of the disease three months later.
A great 2021 investigation by the Office of National Statistics (UK) revealed that more than one in five Britons reported symptoms five weeks after infection, falling to just under 10% after 12 weeks. A more recent study published in Nature Communications, symptoms extending beyond 12 weeks were reported in 7.8-17% of cases.
To research published in The Lancet Regional Health – Western Pacific in 2021, 5% of people with COVID-19 in New South Wales continued to have symptoms after three months.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA) said post-COVID health issues could last for weeks, months, or even years.
What are the symptoms of long COVID?
Landing on an exact proportion of cases that experience long COVID is difficult because there is no universally accepted definition.
The WHO lists fatigue, shortness of breath and cognitive dysfunction among others in its long COVID definition. The Australian Department of Health definition adds heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness, changes in taste and smell, and joint and muscle pain.
The British National Health Service adds insomnia, tingling, depression and anxiety, tinnitus and earache, gastrointestinal problems and other symptoms on his tips.
Persistence of any of these symptoms after recovering from COVID-19 could indicate that a person has long COVID.
Is there a test or treatment for long COVID?
Authorities recommend retesting to rule out new COVID infection, as repeat infection can occur within 28 days.
There is no specific treatment for long COVID, and because the medical understanding of post-COVID symptoms is still developing, health authorities recommend consult your healthcare professional or general practitioner. In Australia, NSW, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia have set up dedicated referral centers for long COVID management.