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Should the term “long COVID” be scrapped?

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Qld's Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard is calling for people to stop using terms like ‘long COVID’ as it can cause ”unnecessary fear".
long COVID

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard has called for the term ‘long COVID’ to be scrapped.

Last week, Queensland Health published new research suggesting post-COVID symptoms are not more severe than the after-effects of the flu.

Gerrard said there’s “no evidence” to distinguish the after-effects of COVID from other “post-viral syndromes”.

Study

A Queensland Health-led study compared the persistent symptoms in over 5,000 patients. This includes those who had either tested positive for COVID-19 or the flu in 2022 or who tested negative but had symptoms. Respondents were asked to monitor ongoing symptoms over twelve months.

The findings acknowledged a person can experience long term after-effects from contracting a virus.

However, researchers compared rates of dizziness, muscle pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue. They found those who had COVID were not more likely to endure severe long-term symptoms than patients who had the flu.

Findings

The report found that 16% of patients were experiencing symptoms of illness one year after getting sick.

Patients were asked about how this impacted their day-to-day activities. Around 3% of COVID patients and 3.4% of flu patients said their ability to function was still moderately to severely impacted.

Long-term symptoms were most severe among a group of patients who had general symptoms of a virus, but who did not test positive for COVID. 4% of these patients were still impacted by illness after 12 months.

Long COVID

Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard noted long COVID might appear as a unique illness. This is due to the high volume of cases during the pandemic.

“However, we found that the rates of ongoing symptoms and functional impairment are indistinguishable from other post-viral illnesses,” he said.

Gerrard is calling for people to stop using terms like ‘long COVID’ as it can cause ”unnecessary fear and in some cases, hypervigilance to longer symptoms that can impede recovery.”

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