Long Covid is the elephant in the room, but it seems invisible to Australian politicians | Adrien esterman


IIn August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote: ‘This is it, living with Covid. The number of cases will likely increase when we start opening up soon. It’s inevitable. But we need to focus on the rate of people hospitalized ”.

Well, he was on the spot with regard to the increase in the number of cases. The problem is, they’ve grown a lot faster than expected.

The University of New South Wales recently reported modeling showing 25,000 cases per day for NSW were possible by the end of January. This was of course rejected by Morrison, who said it was unrealistic. With 12,226 cases for the state as of Thursday, that not only looks very realistic, it is most likely an underestimate.

Even though Omicron is milder than Delta, with thousands of cases per day, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions will inevitably increase. We are already seeing it in NSW.

And when he wrote about living with Covid, Morrison failed to mention that many infected people end up with long-term health issues, a condition we call long-term Covid (or post-Covid-19 condition).

Although most people infected with Covid-19 return to normal health after their infection, more than a third may still have health problems three to six months after their recovery. People most at risk of long-term Covid are people over the age of 50, women, and people with chronic health conditions and obesity. Having a psychiatric or immunosuppressive illness also increases your risk. There is some evidence that the severity of the initial Covid-19 infection does not appear to affect the chances of you getting a long Covid, although there are mixed results on this.

If you are unlucky enough to end up with a long Covid, common symptoms include abnormal breathing, constant fatigue, malaise, chest pain, sore throat, heart abnormalities, headache, muscle pain. , abdominal problems, nerve pain, insomnia, dizziness, brain fog, anxiety and depression. In fact, just about any organ in your body can be damaged by the virus. On a happier note, at least one study has found that children are less likely to become long Coviders.

We are still learning about the long Covid and all of the studies referenced above have looked at previous variants. Unfortunately, because Omicron has only been around for a few weeks, it is too early to know if the new variant will be just as bad for Covid for long. The Australian Medical Research Future Fund is set to fund one or more major long-term Covid studies in Australia, so more information will be available in the next two to three years.

Like Australia, many European countries have gone through the same route of reopening and trying to live with Covid-19. But Professor Martin McKee, European expert in public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, criticizes the responses of the French and British governments and the dismantling of public health measures. He wants to put the focus back on cases and getting them as low as possible, rather than just trying to live with the virus.

This doesn’t necessarily mean lockouts, although McKee points out that these have been very effective in Austria and the Netherlands, albeit for the Delta variant. He argues that the focus should now be on public health measures like improving air filtration and ventilation.

What a sane idea. Unfortunately, the Australian government rarely learns from other countries.

Meanwhile, the elephant in the room called Long Covid is still there, but quite invisible to our policies.

Professor Adrian Esterman is President of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of South Australia. He previously worked for the World Health Organization in Geneva and Copenhagen


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